A very good Lasagne recipe

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One recipe that always goes down very well in our house at dinnertime is lasagne. I’ve tinkered with the recipe over the years and this is the result. I realise that everyone has their own way of making lasagne and this is mine. For someone who, only a few years ago, was only able to make lasagne from Dolmio jars (I know!!) I think it’s fair to say I’ve come a long way!!

The only thing I don’t make from scratch is the pasta sheets. Making my own pasta is something I’ve never done, but I would love to give it a go if I got my hands on a pasta machine (heavy hint to any family reading this, after all it is my Birthday next month!) 😉

I was really stuck on a title for this post – I didn’t just want to call it “Lasagne”. I asked my 11 year old. He said “call it your very good lasagne recipe. Because that’s what it is!”. So here is, in my son’s words, my “very good lasagne recipe” 🙂

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Very good Lasagne recipe

450g pack minced beef
One onion finely diced
One large clove garlic, crushed
50-75g diced pancetta
Handful of mushrooms if you fancy, chopped
Two tins chopped tomatoes
squirt of tomato puree
squirt of tomato ketchup (a brilliant cooking ingredient and no-one can convince me otherwise!)
Couple of bay leaves
2 tsp dried mixed herbs (or 1 tsp each dried oregano and basil)
A few shakes worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1 tsp redcurrrant jelly or 1tsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C.

In a large pan, fry the minced beef until nice and brown. Add the chopped onion, crushed garlic and diced pancetta and stir. Cook for a couple of minutes until the pancetta starts to look crispy, then add the chopped mushrooms if using. Fry this mixture for another couple of mins, then add your chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, ketchup, dried herbs, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and redcurrrant jelly or sugar. Half fill one of the empty cans of tomatoes with water and add to the pan. Add some seasoning, pop on a lid and simmer gently for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Slow is good here! Cooking the ragu slowly will give it an amazing depth of flavour.

Cheesy Bechamel sauce

50g butter
50g plain flour
Around 3/4-1 pint milk
One bay leaf
Half a nutmeg (I like my Bechamel nutmeg heavy but use less if you like!)
Salt and pepper
50g grated parmesan or cheddar

When making a white sauce I swear by the Delia Smith method, I’ve been making it for years and it works every time.

Place the butter, flour and 3/4 pint of milk in a saucepan on a medium to high heat. Stir very well with a whisk constantly to avoid lumps. When everything is looking smooth, add the rest of the milk and turn down the heat to low. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and salt and pepper and simmer very gently for 15 minutes, stirring often. When the sauce has thickened, take the pan off the heat and stir in your grated cheese. Check to see if it needs more seasoning.

All that’s left to do now is assemble your lasagne. I’m sure I do the same as most people – a layer of ragu, then the pasta sheets, a covering of the white sauce, lasagne sheets then repeating exactly the same wayfinishing with the white sauce and a sprinkling of grated cheese. If I’ve got tomatoes in the fridge I’ll some some up for the top, it gives the dish a pretty finish!

Bake the lasagne for 40-45 minutes or until bubbling and looks pleasingly golden brown. I eat my lasagne with a fresh salad, I just love the contrast between the rich, hot ragu and the cool, crunchy fresh salad. My hubby and kids prefer chips! Personally I find the lasagne is filling enough without such a heavy accompaniment. But one addition we all insist on is lots of garlic bread 🙂

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