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. 

Spinach and aubergine lasagne for one

Lasagne is a great dish to make if you’re feeding a large number of people, but it can as easily be reduced to just one portion.

One evening last week I found myself with an open packet of fresh lasagne sheets and a bowl of left-over homemade tomato sauce, and of course I thought it would be a good idea to make a lasagne.

The way I make it, without a cheesy bechamel, is a quick and truly delicious approach, and the best way if you’re making a smaller lasagne.

Spinach and aubergine lasagne, serves 1

1 small aubergine

150 g fresh spinach

3 fresh lasagne sheets

100 ml tomato sauce (homemade if possible)

150 ml creme fraiche

100 ml grädde

1 handful grated cheese

salt, pepper

olive oil and a knob of butter for frying

Wash the aubergine and cut it into slices lengthways. Fry these until soft in olive oil on high heat. Put aside. Add the knob of butter to the same pan on medium heat. Add the spinach and stir as it wilts. Add salt and white pepper and drain away the excess water from the spinach. Mix creme fraiche and cream in a bowl. Add salt and pepper.

Spread some tomato sauce in the bottom of a small ovenproof dish (10 x 10 cm approx), cut the lasagne sheet to fit and place it on top of the tomato sauce. Add another layer of tomato sayce, then a layer of aubergine followed by the spinach and then finally the cream mixture and grated cheese. Start again with another lasagne sheet and repeat until the dish is full. Top with a some cream mixture and grated cheese. Place in a 200 C oven for about 30 minutes. Leave to set for a few minutes before serving.

Fabulous aubergine lasagne

I was so proud of myself last night, because I had managed to fix my laptop that wasn’t working all by myself. And, more importantly, I made this amazing lasagne.

I know it doesn’t sound very humble to say that, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you how great this dish was. It is easy to make, no bèchamel involved, melts in your mouth, and the flavours work so well together. Balsamic vinegar in the tomato sauce with plenty of Italian herbs and a pinch of brown sugar work so well together, giving it depth. The aubergine, soft after a little oil bath in the frying pan is nice and smooth, the pasta gives it texture and the icing on the cake is the creme fraiche, cream and cheese layer on the top. I say no more.

So try this, ok? At once, please!

Aubergine lasagne, serves 3 (maybe 4, but it is easy to have seconds and thirds of this)

2 aubergines

olive oil

400 g passata or chopped tomatoes (I always use Cirio – they’re the best)

4 tbsp water

1,5 tsp concentrated vegetabe stock

1 tbsp Heinz chilli sauce or other mild chilli sauce

a pinch of brown sugar

2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Italian herb seasoning

salt & pepper

1 packet fresh lasagne sheets

150 g Philadelphia cheese

100 ml creme fraiche

50 ml cream

100 ml grated cheese (I used Emmenthal)

Peel the aubergines and cut them into 1/2 cm thick slices. Fry these soft in plenty of olive oil on high heat. Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Add tomatoes, water, stock, vinegar and sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to the boil and let it thicken for 5-10 minutes while stiring. Season to taste with Italian herbs, salt and pepper.

When the sauce and aubergines are ready, start layering the lasagne. Start with tomato sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, then lasagne sheets, some more tomato sauce, aubergines, dollops of Philadelphia cheese. Start again with lasagne sheets for the next layer. Finish the lasagne off with lasagne sheets and some tomato sauce if left over. Mix cream and creme fraiche, salt and pepper and spread it on top to cover the dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake in 200C for about 30 minutes. Enjoy – you certainly will!