Lasagna

Everyone loves and knows how to cook lasagna. It’s the ubiquitous staple of many Australian households. I too enjoy a good lasagna, especially in the colder months. Unfortunately I’ve never been that good at making it. This might be partially explained by the fact that I’ve never followed a recipe, but then I’m sure many people don’t.

I decided that this lasagna was going to be excellent. I looked at a few recipes online and my eyes were opened to a world of new ingredients like nutmeg, bay leaves, mozzarella, cloves and red wine. I wasn’t ready for this level of complication however, so I just took some mental notes and had a go at making it myself. I did use bay leaves though.

It turned out really great actually. I might play around with adding other ingredients in the future if I feel like putting in the time and effort, but at least I have a method for making good lasagna now. I brought some to work for my friend Erin who is a bit of a lasagna queen, and she declared it a success. I also liked that it held it’s shape after being cut. The photo above is of the first slice cut, right after it came out of the oven. The first slice never comes out so well!


Lasagna

  • 1 large brown onion, diced
  • ~5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ~600g beef mince
  • 140g tomato paste (small tub)
  • 2 tins diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar of favourite pasta sauce
  • bay leaves
  • dried italian herbs
  •  2 boxes of large lasagna sheets
  • cheddar or mozzarella cheese, extra

Bechamel Sauce

  • ~30g butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • ~900ml milk
  • bay leaves
  • ~1 cup cheese (if desired)

Sweat off the onions and garlic in olive oil over low heat in a large pan. When they are soft, turn up the heat and add the mince to brown. Add the tomato paste once meat is mostly browned and mix through, breaking down the mince into fine pieces. Add tomatoes, pasta sauce, 2-4 bay leaves, a generous sprinkle of italian herbs and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for at least 10 minutes, stirring often. I had mine going for about half an hour which really helped to thicken it up and break down the meat further.

To make the bechamel sauce, mix together butter and flour in a saucepan to form a consistent ‘roux’. It may help to do this over low heat so the butter melts. Slowly add the milk whilst whisking until smooth and lump free. Add a couple of bay leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat and continue whisking very frequently for about 5 minutes, or until it thickens up. Remove bay leaves and stir through the cheese if you wish (technically not a bechamel sauce, but it’s how I like it).

I’m not sure if there’s a proper way for lasagna to be assembled but I like to use a layer of pasta sheets on the bottom followed by meat sauce (bay leaves removed) and bechamel sauce, and so on, finishing with pasta sheets and a final layer of bechamel. Sprinkle a little extra cheese on top.

Bake for about 20-30 minutes in a moderate oven until bubbling and lightly browned.

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Published in: on June 30, 2011 at 7:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d never had much success with lasagne until recently. I mean, it was ok, but not what I’d call a “proper” lasagne.

    The recipe I’ve taken to using is pretty similar to this one, although I’ve never put bay leaves in the bechamel sauce. I also do the sauce in the microwave, cos a) I’m lazy, and b) I get less hassle with lumps that way.

    And if there’s an art to getting the first piece out of the dish without munting it up, I’d like to know it.

    • I found that it really helped to use pasta as the bottom layer. It’s probably quite obvious to most people but I always used to start with the meat sauce. Also, simmering the meat for a long time will thicken it up so that it doesn’t run everywhere when you cut into the lasagna. Apart from that I think it’s just luck and a steady hand.

      The bay leaves were a subtle flavour but they certainly added something.


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