Recipe: My favourite lasagne

Fun fact; I didn’t think I liked lasagne when I was a child. My mamma never made it so my only reference was the school lasagne which was horrible. I’m sorry, but it was and I still wouldn’t eat it today. So imagine my fear when we were going away with the student body for a few days aged 11 or so and I was told one of the dinners would be lasagne.

One of the school dinner ladies was there cooking for us and the lasagne she put down on the table was absolutely delicious and miles away from the bulk made one we had at school. From then on I’ve loved the dish, but as I never learnt how to make it from my mamma, it took me a while to figure out my preferred version.

After a lot of trail and error I have come up with a recipe I am very happy with and quite proud of. In my trials I have learnt that I don’t like mine to acidic and I definitely want red wine in the sauce. The smell of a bolognese sauce cooking on the stove for a few hours is one of my favourite smells. It’s the mixture of the scents that does it for me; slight smokiness from the browned beef, a whiff of fat that makes everything taste better, and the warming scent of red wine bubbling away.

I’ve also learnt (the hard way) that you need a vat of béchamel. Like way more than you think you need. Oh, and lasagne sheets behave very differently. The best ones I’ve found are these from Barilla that cook quickly and don’t drink all the sauce.

So without much further ado, here is my beloved recipe. Let me know if you try it and what you think! Oh, and try this salad while you’re at it. It goes perfectly with pasta and adds a little freshness and tang to your lunch or supper!

My lasagne, serves 4

Bolognese sauce:

500 g beef mince, at least 12 % fat

2 tbsp soffritto (equal parts minced carrots, onions and celery)

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1 bay leaf

1/2 bottle red wine (375 ml)

1 tbsp tomato paste

400 g chopped tomatoes

2 tsp herb d’Provence

Bechamel sauce:

4 tbsp butter

3 tbsp plain flour

1 l whole milk

grated nutmeg

salt and pepper

2 tsp lemon juice

1 handful grated mature cheese

1 parmesan rind

To assemble:

approx 12 lasagne sheets

1 handful grated mature cheese 

Add the olive oil to a large saucepan and fry the soffritto over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add the beef mince fry until brown and a bit crispy in parts. Add salt and pepper. Pour in the red wine. Add the bay leaf and pour in the tomatoes and a little water. Add the tomato paste, give the pot a good stir and bring to the boil. Once boiling lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and let it gently simmer away for 11/2-2 hours. Stir occasionally and check that it’s not reducing too quickly. If so, lower the heat and add a little water. Once you have a thick and not too runny bolognese, adjust the seasoning and add the dried herbs. Leave on low heat while you make the béchamel sauce. 

Add the butter to a large saucepan. Add the flour and fry it while stirring with a whisk on medium heat for a minute or two. Add approx 200 ml milk and stir with a whisk until the mixture thickens. Add the parmesan rind, keep on a medium-low heat and repeat with the remaining milk. Don’t let it boil as it could split, and stir continuously with a whisk so it doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pan. Once thick and creamy add the grated cheese, grated nutmeg and lemon juice. Season well to taste and set aside. 

Pre-heat the oven to 200C fan. 

To start building the lasagne, pour a ladle of béchamel into an oven-proof dish aprox 25×20 cm and spread it out to cover the bottom of the dish. Place a layer or lasagne sheets on top to cover. Break sheets apart to find pieces to fit the dish if needed. Add another ladle of béchamel and spread it out. Add a third of the bolognese on top and spread it out. Add another layer of lasagne sheets, cover with béchamel and top with a third of the bolognese. Do one more layer. Top the last layer of lasagne sheets with béchamel and mix in a little of what’s left of the bolognese sauce, just to get a nice colour. Add the cheese and any remaining béchamel. 

Place the lasagne in the middle of the oven and cook for approx 30 minutes. Until browned and crispy on top and cooked through. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Prepare a salad, cut up the lasagne and plate. 

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