Oh, what to write about this Lasagne? As I’ve said before on the recipes for my Open Lasagne, Spinach, Chard and Courgette Lasagne and Chicken, Pesto and Butternut Lasagne I absolutely adore the stuff. Well, at least when it’s done well that is. A disappointing lasagne can be heartbreaking and there’s really no excuse. This lasagne recipe is by far the most traditional I’ve posted and it is almost guaranteed to bring you (and up to 7 friends) nothing but joy.
Based on what I’ve written before I’ll try my best to not turn this post into another love letter to lasagne. Suffice it to say that if I knew I was going to die tomorrow I’d make sure to have some lasagne today. It’s my ultimate comfort food. Scott + Lasagne (± Garlic Bread) = Heaven.
As I said above there is no excuse for making a bad lasagne. You know the sort I mean: too watery or too oily or totally lacking in any flavour. Or worst of all a combination of the three. Lasagne isn’t something you should make in a rush. A few extra minutes at the start can make a major difference to the end product. As such, there are few little “rules” that I like to follow when making lasagne.
- Start with a proper base to the sauce. By that I mean a soffritto (or mirepoix) of onion, celery and carrot – the classic base for so many sauces. I fry mine in bacon fat and add plenty of garlic, which makes this a strong, flavoursome foundation for the rest of the ragù.
- Use a mixture of meats. A lot of lasagne recipes only call for beef mince, sometimes with the addition of some bacon lardons (or Italian sausage in American recipes). I think you should go the whole hog, as it were, and add in pork mince too. This combination of meat makes the ragù a lot more rounded and is very much apparent in the end result.
- Keep the moisture levels under control. When you bake the lasagne in the oven the pasta (whether it’s fresh or dried) is going to absorb a lot of liquid. As such you need to make sure that there’s enough sauce to save your dish from drying out. However, you also want it to have some structure when you serve it. Properly cooking and reducing the ragù for an hour or so will concentrate the flavour and reduce the risk of a big sloppy mess.
- Don’t overdo it on the cheese. I know this sounds like madness but the cheesy bechamel sauce is there for flavour. Too much of it has the same effect as a runny ragù and will cause the lasagne to fall apart. Make sure you add layers throughout but don’t go mad. Save the bulk of the cheese for the top – where it will go golden and crispy. Does anyone not love a crunchy topping to their lasagne?
- Oh and make sure you bake it for long enough for the pasta to be tender – nobody likes to chew their way through something that should be melt-in-the-mouth.
So by my reckoning that’s five simple steps to lasagne heaven. Just make sure to invite some friends round to enjoy it with you… As I’ve said before lasagne leftovers are by far the most dangerous snack food in my fridge. When the lasagne tastes this good they’ll have the same effect on you!
For the Ragù
- 75 g Smoked Bacon Lardons finely chopped
- 100 g Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 60 g Celery finely chopped
- 60 g Carrot finely chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 750 g Beef Mince
- 500 g Pork Mince
- 2 tsp Dried Thyme
- 2 tbsp Tomato Purée
- 250 ml Good Quality Beef Stock
- 400 g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
For the Béchamel Sauce
- 60 g Butter
- 60 g Plain Flour
- ½ tsp English Mustard Powder
- 1 pint Semi-Skimmed Milk at room temperature
- 50 g Parmesan Cheese grated
For the Lasagne
- 300 g Dried Lasagne Sheets approx 12 sheets
- 200 g Hard Mozzarella grated
Make the Ragù
- Heat a large, deep over a medium heat. Add the bacon lardons and cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring regularly, until golden and crisp. When cooked remove from the pan and put to one side. Leave as much of the oil in the pan as possible.
- Add the celery, onion and carrot to the pan and sauté for 10 minutes or so until softened. Stir occasionally to ensure the vegetables don’t burn. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so until fragrant. Remove from the pan and put to one side.
- Turn the heat up to high and add the olive oil to the pan. Mix together the beef and pork mince, then brown in batches until no pink remains. You want the mince to caramelise so don’t try and fry it all at once, otherwise it will steam rather than brown.
- When all the meat has been browned, return the bacon and vegetables to the pan, along with the dried thyme and tomato purée. Stir through the mince, then pour in the beef stock and chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer then loosely cover and reduce the heat so that the sauce is gently bubbling. Allow to cook for 50 to 60 minutes until reduced and thickened.
Make the Béchamel Sauce
- Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Sift in the flour and mustard powder, then stir into the butter until it forms a thick paste.
- Pour in a small amount of the milk and stir until incorporated into flour and butter mixture. Repeat this step, adding around 50ml of milk at a time, until you have a smooth sauce. If any lumps start to form then remove from the heat and whisk them into the sauce.
- Once all the milk has been incorporated heat the sauce to just below a simmer – this should thicken it.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Assemble the Lasagne
- Pre-heat the oven to 170°C
- Spoon a quarter of the beef ragù into the bottom of a large ovenproof dish. Lay a third of the pasta sheets over the top, then spoon around a third of the béchamel sauce across the pasta – spreading it to the edges. Top this with another quarter of the ragù, another layer of pasta and a third of the béchamel sauce. Repeat with another layer of ragù, then pasta, but at this stage top with a final later of ragu, topped with béchamel. Finally sprinkle the grated mozzarella over the top.
- This will give you 11 layers: beef ragù > pasta > béchamel sauce > beef ragù > pasta > béchamel sauce > beef ragù > pasta > beef ragù > béchamel sauce > mozzarella.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. The cheese should be golden and bubbling on the top and the pasta tender.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
|Estimated Values per Serving|
|of which Saturates||24||g|
|of which Sugars||6||g|
|Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.|