Simple, tasty and very comforting
Fancy a great big food hug? Then this epic lasagne recipe will do just the job.
- SERVES: 6 – 8
- PREP TIME: 15 mins
- COOK TIME: 25 – 30 mins
- DIFFICULTY: easy
Epic lasagne recipe
This epic lasagne recipe is fantastic because of the elements that come together to elevate it.
The meat sauce with Bechamel sauce gives it silkiness and decadence.
Then there’s the two kinds of cheese – mozzarella and parmesan.
I’ll admit, I love a fast way to cook a lasagne and this cheats lasagne is also brilliant.
But, over the years, I’ve battled to make the meat sauce in a lasagne really taste incredible.
No longer is that my problem.
This recipe is everything I’ve been looking for in a lasagne.
And it isn’t down to one thing but a top tip is to always have beef and pork mince.
The fat in the pork gives more flavour.
Lasagne vs lasagna
Ok, let’s get some basics sorted.
Lasagna with an ‘a’ refers to the individual lasagna pasta sheets.
This means, the lasagne, spelt with an ‘e’, is plural.
That’s that sorted.
I always get a sore head when I start to research food history.
It’s never clear cut.
This is why it’s fascinating.
And why food is so intertwined with culture and connecting us all to different nations.
But it’s also slightly painful when you want to just figure out the origins quickly.
But let’s give it a go.
The Greeks always get in there with their influence!
And in this case, it’s said the Ancient Greeks had strips of dough sheets called ‘laganon’.
And these were used to make layered dishes.
Next up, are the Romans.
Around the 1st century AD, a Roman dish was recorded in the cookbook called Apicius.
But from reading up on this dish, it didn’t sound that tasty.
And layers of pasta are more like pancakes than egg pasta.
But the layering method was key to the dish.
Napoli / Naples
Right, let’s keep moving forward.
In the 16th century, tomatoes made it to Italy.
And there’s a reference to lasagne in a book in 1544.
But we still haven’t hit the full version of what we think of as lasagne.
We have to come to Naples and in 1692, there is a reference to the original lasagne recipe.
Or at least a tomato ragu recipe.
So, we’ll settle with this timing and place as the original modern lasagne recipe.
What I’ve learnt over my cooking journey with Italian recipes and Italy, is how divided the country is.
They undoubtedly love their food.
But they are very regional.
And very proud of their regional cuisines or take on dishes.
A lot of this has to do with what can be grown in different parts of the country.
For example, the South with all its sunshine has more wheat fields so can make pasta.
But if you head North, then it’s more about rice and polenta.
So, it’s no surprise that there are many takes on the lasagne.
Regional variations of lasagne
In Italy, you can find almost a different type of lasagna for each Italian region:
- Emilia-Romagna: is layers of Ragu, and of Bechamel sauce, and made with the local Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
- Liguria: the Bolognese sauce is replaced by pesto sauce in.
- Campania (the region where Naples resides): the pasta sheets are made without eggs, the main ingredients are Mozzarella or Provola cheese, small meatballs and Ricotta Romana.
- Marche region: there is a particular version called “vincisgrassi“, where bigger pieces of meat are used in the sauce with the addition of chicken giblets and spices and a thicker bechamel sauce.
- Central Italy: is popular a mushroom lasagna version.
- Veneto: the ragú sauce is replaced by red radish or Treviso.
This recipe is all about the Emilia-Romagna version.
And this combo is to die for because it has meat sauce and Bechamel sauce – divine.
So, in case you forgot how to make a white sauce, here’s a quick reminder.
How to make Béchamel sauce
- 50g butter
- 500 ml whole milk
- Plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- More than a pinch of white ground pepper
- Nutmeg (optional but nice)
- Make the roux: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour then cook for 1-2 minutes until the roux turns a very light golden brown.
- Cook the sauce: Whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until the sauce is smooth and the milk has been incorporated. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently, stirring regularly, until the sauce is smooth and thick. Add the spices and cheese (if using) and stir in. Season to taste.
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 small celery stick, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 3 sage leaves
- a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 100 ml extra virgin oil
- 500 g minced beef (high quality)
- 500 g minced pork (high quality)
- 400 ml white wine
- 600 g tomato passata (or puree some tinned tomatoes)
- 600 ml water
- 50 g butter
- 40 g plain flour
- 500 ml whole milk
- ground white pepper
- grated nutmeg optional
For the layers
- 150 g grated parmesan
- 250 g mozzarella
- 1 packet of lasagne sheets (try and get fresh pasta)
Meat sauce – make the day before if you want
- In a deep large pan, cook the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and herbs in olive oil until the vegetables are soft.Add the minced beef and pork, breaking it up, and cook for approx 7 mins or until it turns an opaque colour. Add some salt and pepper to season and pour the wine in – turn the heat up high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced a lot – approx 10 mins.
- Now, add the passata and water and another good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and let simmer gently for approx 1 hr, stirring occasionally. (check the seasoning again and adjust to your taste)
- Once cooked, set aside (or place in the fridge if you're doing this the day before).
- In a saucepan, on a low-medium heat, add the butter, then add the flour and stir together until you form a thick paste.Slowly, add the milk and whisk until the mixture is nice and smooth. Now cook for approx 10 mins stirring until it thickens. (The bechamel should coat the back of a spoon when it's done).Season with salt and white pepper (and a little grated nutmeg), then set aside.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F
- In a large rectangular oven dish, start with the meat sauce, add some bechamel sauce, a layer of pasta.Then meat sauce, bechamel sauce, grated parmesan, torn pieces of mozzarella dotted around.Repeat until you have the final layer of meat sauce, bechamel sauce, and cheese spread over top.Cook in the oven for 15 – 20 mins or until bubbling.
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