24 Apr 2024
Expat Cookbook: A Lasagna Worth Making
Expat Cookbook

Expat Cookbook: A Lasagna Worth Making

Any true-blooded Italian man claims his mamma’s beef lasagna is second to none. Those who have tried my 4-hour labour of love reluctantly admit it is second to only their madre’s, cheekily adding it is their duty to say so. And over the years, I have been asked by a few women married to Italians to share my recipe in hope of weaning their husbands’ devotion off their materno’s.    

Whatever the reason, autumn’s changing colours always beckons at least one afternoon delighting in making this time honoured pasta dish – there is something truly comforting filling my kitchen with the seductive scents of Italian sauces gently simmering away in saucepans, and of the eventual assembled mouth-watering lasagna merrily bubbling in the oven.

 

Ingredients:

Dried lasagna sheets (those that don’t need pre-cooking)
300 g mozzarella, grated
200 g Parmesan, grated
Salt
Cracked black pepper
Butter

 

For the Meat Sauce:

45g butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
250 g streaky bacon, julienned
500g minced beef
1 tsp dried oregano
Generous pinches of nutmeg, freshly grated
75 ml dry white wine
1-2 cubes beef stock, crumbled
450g pasta sauce (tomato-based and preferably garlic & basil, or mushroom flavoured)
6 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp double cream

 

For the Béchamel Sauce:

850ml milk
4 bay leaves
1 large onion studded with 10 cloves
70g butter
40g plain flour
125ml double cream
Generous pinches of fresh nutmeg, freshly grated

 

Instructions:

For the Meat Sauce:

  1. Heat a large non-stick pot to stir fry the bacon till they are slightly crispy. Set them aside, and keep the bacon fat in the pot.
  2. Melt the butter in the same pot, and stir fry the onion, carrot, garlic and celery for 5-6 minutes to soften them.
  3. Add the beef, at an increased heat; cooking for 8 minutes to colour but not brown all the meat; stirring to break up the lumps of mince.
  4. Stir in the crispy bacon, oregano and nutmeg.
  5. Stir in the wine, 1 beef stock cube, pasta sauce and tomato paste.
  6. Simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours so that all the liquid gets absorbed. You may need to add a little hot water during this time to keep the mixture slightly moist.
  7. Stir in the cream, and taste; adding a 2nd beef stock cube if needed.
  8. Taste again; seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Remove from the heat to cool it.

 

For the Béchamel Sauce:

  1. Put milk, bay leaves and clove-studded onion into a saucepan.
  2. Bring to the boil, and leave it to cool for at least 20 minutes before straining it.
  3. Melt the butter in a 2nd saucepan to mix in the flour to make a roux; stirring for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir the strained milk into the roux, making sure no lumps remain.
  5. Simmer gently for 10 minutes to turn the sauce creamy.
  6. Add the cream and nutmeg, seasoning well with salt and pepper.

 

To assemble the lasagna:

  1. Preheat the oven to 1800C.
  2. Lightly grease a large rectangular ovenproof dish with butter.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce in the dish.
  4. Scatter 1/3 of the mozzarella over the meat sauce.
  5. Cover with a slightly overlapping layer of lasagna sheets.
  6. Spread 1/3 of the béchamel sauce over the sheets.
  7. Sprinkle 1/3 of the Parmesan over the béchamel sauce.
  8. Repeat steps 3 to 7, finishing with a layer of béchamel and Parmesan.
  9. Bake the lasagna for 40 minutes till it becomes golden brown and bubbling.
  10. Rest the lasagna for 10 minutes before serving.

 

Serves 4 to 6



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