Lasagna or lasagne, I never quite know which one is actually correct so before writing this post I sat down and did some googling. Lasagna is singular and lasagne is plural. There is a bit of nerdy wisdom for you! Celebrity chefs seem to be unsure too, Nigella uses lasagna, whereas George Calombaris uses lasagne, I grew up with lasagne, so I'll stick to that! Either way, it's delicious!
You might as well refer to me as Garfield, lasagne is my absolute favourite dish and my go-to meal to make for friends and people I want to impress. I have perfected the recipe over the years and would say this is the perfect lasagne for me.
Lasagne is not something that you just quickly whip up and it's ready within 30 minutes, it does take a little bit of time (not too much though) and passion but the result is worthy an Italian nonna!
Some people nowadays leave out the white sauce (Béchamel sauce) or just add a few spoonfuls of sour cream, but I think that's cheating. I like the process of infusing the milk with bay leaves and garlic first before making a roux and using the infused milk to add some extra flavour to the white sauce. And then the layering of the lasagne: Meat sauce, white sauce, pasta sheets, meat sauce, white sauce, pasta sheets. It's smells comforting and I usually end up burning the top of my mouth as I can't wait to eat when the lasagne comes out of the oven, the cheese all melted, golden and bubbling. The smell, the taste of the different layers - that is heaven for me!
3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, finely diced
500g beef mince
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp flour
400g diced canned tomatoes
150g stock (vegetable or beef)
2 tsp Italian dried herbs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
White sauce (Béchamel sauce):
2 bay leaves
2 garlic gloves, halved
3 tbsp flour
300ml thickened cream
1 generous pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
6-7 fresh pasta sheets
grated mozarella cheese
To make the meat sauce:
Heat up oil in a large frypan. Add garlic and mince and brown well. Turn down the heat and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Add tomato paste and flour and cook for about 1-2 minutes (the flour will soak up any extra liquid). Pour in the canned tomatoes and stock and stir. Season with Italian herbs and nutmeg and cook on a low heat for about 20-30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to a thicker consistency. Only then season with salt and pepper.
To make the white sauce:
Heat the milk in a small pot together with the garlic cloves and bay leaves, once it has boiled take from the heat and put aside to cool. Pour the milk through a sieve into a jug or bowl. Wash the pot and put back on the stove. Melt the butter on medium heat, add the flour and stir well. Let the roux (the butter flour paste) sit on low heat for about a minute but keep a close eye on it, you don't want it to brown, just get rid of the flour taste.
Slowly, while stirring, add the milk, make sure there are no lumps and cook for 3 minutes. Add the thickened cream, and let come to a boil again. Take off the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
To layer the lasagne, start with a little meat sauce at the bottom, topped with some white sauce, then cover with the pasta sheets. I get mine from a local market and they are a little too long, but just measure them before and cut them to size.
Continue with meat sauce, white sauce, pasta sheets. I usually have 4 sets of layers, make sure you end up with white sauce on top. Put some basil leaves on top, before topping everything off with grated mozarella.
Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is golden brown.
And now, if you can contain yourself wait a few minutes before digging in, it will be hot, otherwise you'll end up burning your mouth, just like I always do...