A traditional Italian-American meal that has found its way into homes all around the world, lasagna is a delicious mound of pasta sheets, juicy meat, rich tomato sauce and creamy cheese. Each bite is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, making it the ultimate in comfort food.
Lasagne is surprisingly easy to prepare and a large portion can be cut into slices and frozen, making it a convenient dinner for evenings when time is not on your side.
To make our version of this tasty and wholesome dish, you will need the following ingredients, an enthusiastic chef and a cooker:
(These quantities will serve 6 but can easily be doubled for a family gathering or to make freezable portions).
750g lean beef mince – the best quality you can afford
200ml hot beef or vegetable stock
300g fresh lasagne sheets – or dried if you prefer
150g cheddar – as strong as you like it and grated
2 tbsp olive oil
For the tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato puree
200ml white wine
3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes – organic preferably
2 onions – finely chopped
2 garlic cloves – crushed
1 carrot – roughly chopped
1 handful basil leaves
For the white sauce:
85g plain flour
750ml milk – whole milk if possible
To make the tomato sauce heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onions, garlic and carrot. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for a minute before adding the wine. Cook for a further 5 minutes until this has reduced by two-thirds. Pour in the tinned chopped tomatoes and a good handful of basil leaves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Leave the sauce to cool before blitzing in a food processor.
To make the white sauce, just melt the butter in a pan and gently stir in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and bring to the boil whilst stirring continuously. Turn the heat down and cook until the sauce thickens. Let the sauce cool. It can be refrigerated for 3 days and frozen for 3 months.
Preheat the oven to 180C / Fan 160C or Gas 4
For the meat sauce, heat your oil in a large pan and cook the beef until brown. You could also add a little cubed pancetta or chorizo at this stage if you so desire.
Pour over half of the tomato sauce mixture (the remaining sauce can be frozen for next time) and the stock and season with black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the beef looks rich and well coated.
Lightly oil an oven proof dish (30 x 20cm). Spoon over a third of the meat ragu and cover with lasagne sheets. Drizzle with white sauce and repeat the process 3 times so that you have 3 layers.
Cover the top layer of pasta with the remaining white sauce and add the grated cheddar. Bake for 30-45 minutes until the top is a lovely brown and bubbling away nicely.
Serve with a fresh green salad and crusty bread.