Lasagna is a wonderful comfort food. Fabulous when you’re feeling like you need a foodie hug or something filling to take away the too many wines from the night before feeling. It is one of those foods that tends to not look pretty on the plate, but who really cares when it tastes so good!
It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to make a lasagna, it is a little time consuming compared to most pasta dishes, but I find that the effort makes it well worth the effort. For me this is a Sunday arvo kind of meal which is then a fabulous option for popping into the freezer for your own version of a quick frozen dinner on those nights you can’t be bothered.
For me the essentials in creating a wonderful lasagna is making sure you season each of your components well, that you take the time to cook down your bolognaise properly and that you don’t skimp out on the bechamel sauce. I also make sure that I use a mixture of pork and beef mince which means that there is a lovely flavour but it’s not quite as rich as pure beef. More of a personal preference than a must do, but something that once I started doing I’ve never gone back to a beef only mixture. I also love adding in grated vegetables to my mixture. I’m sure its all in my head, but it helps me to feel like I’m having a more balanced meal and adds to the nutritional value of what can often be a very meat heavy dish.
Lasagna is delicious on its own but alternatively serve it with a simple green salad of crispy iceberg lettuce with tomatoes or some rocket dressed with balsamic vinegar. Honestly though this dish is a meal in and of itself.
Leah’s Meat Lasagna
- approx 1.4kg of mince (half pork/half beef or veal)
- 2 large brown onions finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbl sp. dried oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tsp allspice
- 2 tbl sp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbl sp. Tomato Paste
- 2 tbl sp. brown sugar
- 1 cup red wine (preferably a Cabernet or Shiraz style)
- 4 tins canned whole peeled canned tomatoes
- 3 medium carrots peeled and grated
- 3 stalks celery, grated
- 4-6 swiss brown mushrooms finely diced
- 1/2 cup basil leaves torn into small pieces
- sea salt and cracked black pepper for seasoning
- 1 tsp nutmeg plus extra for dusting top of lasagna
- approx 1L milk
- 2 cups grated mozzarella and parmesan mix
- 150g butter
- 3 tbl sp plain flour
- 1 packet instant lasagna sheets (this mix needs about 20 pieces)
Prepare your vegetables in anticipation of putting your sauce together.
Heat a large pot over a medium heat and then add your onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent and then add your herbs. Stir and then add your meat. Cook off the meat until it starts to brown, stirring occasionally and then add in your wine. Stir to combine and then add in your tomato paste, vegetables and tomatoes. Crush the whole tomatoes into the pot as you add them in to help with the texture. Stir well and continue to cook over a medium/low heat until the mixture is reduced by 1/3 or the liquid part of the sauce has thickened. This cooking process with these quantities will take approx 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Season your sauce with the brown sugar, salt, pepper and basil.
When your meat sauce is getting close to being ready preheat your oven to approx 180c. Using a large deep baking dish line the bottom with sheets of pasta. It’s okay if there is small gaps or a slight overlap. Spoon your bolognaise sauce covering the pasta well with about a 1cm depth. Layer again with the pasta, and the meat sauce. Sprinkle lightly with some of the cheese and then do another layer of pasta and meat sauce. When you are near to the top of your dish have the layer as being meat then pasta as the finish with enough space for your bechamel sauce.
To make the bechamel sauce use a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat and melt your butter. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Once the flour has soaked up the butter add in the milk in small quantities stirring well as you go to avoid lumps. To begin with the mixture will absorb the milk quickly and thicken quite a lot but eventually it will loosen up. Once you’ve added in all the milk the sauce will be quite liquid but keep cooking until the mixture simmers slightly and starts to thicken. At this point remove from the heat, add in a small handful of cheese, some seasoning and also the tsp of ground nutmeg. Combine well and then pour over the pasta sheets.
Finally to top the lasagna sprinkle the remaining cheese and dust with nutmeg.
Place your lasagna into the oven and bake for approx 45 minutes or until the top is a beautiful golden brown.
Serve hot with a gutsy glass of red wine.
Happy Cooking & Happy Eating,