Lasagne

Ahhh, an oldie but a goodie. Show me a child who doesn’t like lasagne and come, let them sit by me. That’s right. Despite making a lasagne every raves about, it really doesn’t do it for me. I prefer Nigella’s take on it – to make the bolognaise, the bechamel and to them smooch them through penne and bake – if I have to eat something of this ilk. I don’t know, it’s just not my thing.

It’s on the weekly rotation at the moment as Felix loves it and Jasper eats it. I also get two nights out of it and sometimes enough bolognaise sauce left over to get a dinner out of that as well. That my friend is called a win win win.

Lasagne
The Bolognaise sauce

  • 2-4 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, smooshed
  • 1kg beef mince
  • 500g pork mince
  • 1 cup of red wine (optional, I only add if I’ve got a bottle open)
  • 2-4 tbls tomato paste
  • 500ml sugo
  • 2x400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • stock or water
  • flat leaf parsley and basil
  1. Heat a little oil in a big saucepan and saute the onions, carrots and celery slowly. I’m talking 30 minutes at least. Add the garlic about half way through. Keep it quite wet, if it dries out add some water.
  2. Add the meat and cook until browned through
  3. Add the wine and cook out until alcohol smell has dissipated
  4. Add tomato paste and cook it out for a minute or so
  5. Add the sugo and tinned tomatoes and enough stock that it gets good boiling/simmering movement.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 2 hours
  7. Near the end of cooking I added a big handful of fresh herbs and check seasoning.

Bechamel sauce

  • 4 tbs butter
  • 6 tbs plain flour
  • 1 litre milk (I use skim)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan
  2. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes or so
  3. Add milk gradually at first to ensure you don’t have any lumps, then pour it all in
  4. Stir fairly constantly over medium heat until it thickens
  5. Turn off the heat and add the parmesan
  6. Season with salt and pepper

Lasagne sheets
I know some of you will just go ‘pfff’ at this, as I did when Joke told me he cures his own bacon (or something like that) but I can taste the difference, so this is what I do.
I use ones which you have to cook first. They’re thicker and this brand is fantastic. I figure when Antoinette who runs the best (dare I say only really decent one) Italian deli on the Northern Beaches will only stock this one it has to be good. I also occasionally use the Latina fresh variety when the thought of getting the pack into the car and out of the car and into a deli and out of a deli and back in the car and home makes my head explode.

Building your lasagne
My beautiful friend Linda who also happens to be Italian told me once that lasagne is all about the layers and that there has to be lots of them. She doesn’t even make it with bechamel. Just lasagne sheets and bolognaise. And mine never gets close to hers in flavour. She made it once, for Chef’s 30th when a few of us went to the farm where we were married. That dinner, where copious amounts of alcohol were consumed with almost equally massive amounts of food is one of my most favourite memories of all time.

Start with a layer of the meat sauce, then pasta, then bechamel and so on

Layer as follows
meat
pasta
bechamel
pasta
meat
pasta
ricotta
bechamel
pasta
meat
pasta
bechamel
sprinkle cheese over the top.

That’s right people – LOTS of layers. This is important. As important as a slow long cooked sauce.
Bake at 180C until cooked through.