Market ingredient: Pasta Gallery Fresh Lasagne sheets (although the mushies, spinach and basil were also from the markets)
Difficulty: Easy but bechamel takes a lot of love
Did The Beard like it? It’s apparently his favourite lasagne (just don’t tell his Mum)
So, it’s a bit of an excited blog post for 2 reasons:
- I’ve finally opened up some fantastic box lights that were given to me by Stevie-from-across-the-road’s wonderful wife-to-be, the divine Miss H. Miss H is a spectacular designer and photographer. Not only does she take better photos of food than I could ever hope to take (my iphone isn’t really helping my cause much either) but she is also ridiculously generous. When she told me she had two box lights just sitting under her desk at work and they were mine if I wanted them, I was tres excited. So this is my first crack at banishing yellow-lit food from this blog.
- The Beard and I are in the middle of planning a big holiday to North Africa / Sicily / Malta. Those that know me know that I’m a bit of an Italian-want-to-be and have a bit of a romantic notion of that country. I’ve just spent the entire weekend reading up on Sicily, where we are going to be spending 2 out of the 4 weeks away. After picking up some of Pasta Gallery’s Fresh Lasagne sheets this week, it seemed only appropriate that we finish the weekend out with some hearty Italian fare.
So I don’t know if lasagne is particularly Sicilian, and I don’t think my recipe is particularly traditional. However I do use the Lasagne Bolognese recipe from The Silver Spoon (Italy’s answer to Stephanie Alexander’s The Cooks Companion) as a base, so I figure I’m pretty close. And surely, if anyone was going to let me make a recipe my own, it would be the Italians, right? In terms of making the Bolognese sauce below, I will apologise as I don’t actually follow a recipe for that. It’s a bit of a mish-mash of flavours that I love and you really do need to just go on your gut instinct and taste buds to decide how you like it. I think traditionally, this sauce would have celery and carrot in it, along with a simpler tomato base. However I really love the splash of red wine and slight sweetness brought by the balsamic vinegar in it. Seems to balance out the acidity of tomatoes quite nicely.
Have a play around, work out what works for you. Apologies if it doesn’t work perfectly the first time – you might just need to adjust the flavours for your own taste. Additionally, if I was making a bolognese pasta, I would probably mix herbs into the bolognese. However, I left them out as I was layering whole basil leaves into this lasagne. Just cause I can.
Ingredients for beef, mushroom and spinach lasagne
- About 300g fresh lasagne sheets
- 500g beef mince
- 1 brown onion, chopped finely
- 2 medium cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 1/2 small red chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely
- 1 x tin of tomatoes
- about 150ml of beef stock (you can use chicken if you want something slightly less rich)
- good splash of red wine
- drizzle of caramelised balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic will be a perfectly good substitute)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 200g of mixed mushrooms, sliced
- A good bunch of English Spinach, washed
- 1 bunch of fresh basic leaves
- Small amount of grated parmesan
For the bechamel sauce
- 75g butter
- 75g plain flour
- 750ml milk (I used skim, but full cream will give a beautiful, rich flavour).
- Sweat the onions, garlic and chilli over a medium heat in a heavy-based fry pan until fragrant and translucent. Add the mince, turn up the heat slightly and cook until brown. Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, wine and balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer for 30 or minutes or until reduced. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a splash more wine or balsamic if you feel it hasn’t reached the desired flavour.
- For the bechamel, melt the butter in a pot over a low heat until completely melted. Add the flour and whisk continuously until a roux is formed. The roux should be fairly thick and not runny, but turn the heat down if it is starting to stick to the bottom of the pot. Add all of the milk and whisk continuously until the sauce begins to thicken. Add salt and pepper, and even a little nutmeg if you so desire. Keep whisking until the sauce will coat the back of a spoon quite thickly. You can always add a little milk if the sauce is too thick, or a little more flour if it is too runny
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a medium sized baking dish or lasagne dish with butter. Place a thin layer of the bechamel on the bottom of the tray. This will prevent the lasagne sheets from sticking too much to the bottom and ensure that they are completely cooked. Then place a layer of pasta sheets on top. Follow with a layer of bolognese, another layer of bechamel, then a layer of basil, mushrooms and finally a layer of spinach. When you have completed this, place another layer of pasta then follow the previous steps, layering the ingredients until you have used them all, or you have reached the top of the dish! Finish with a layer of pasta topped with a small thin smear of bechamel and cover with a little grated parmesan.
- Cover the lasagne with foil and bake for 45min – 1hr in the oven. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes until the top of the lasagne has browned and is crisp.
- Serve with a crisp cabbage and parmesan salad with a olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Delicious!
The most annoying thing about making a lasagne is the bechamel sauce. Not that it’s difficult to make, it just requires a lot of love and attention. Much like The Beard. If you don’t fancy making the bechamel, or are a little concerned about the calories, try replacing it with either a full-fat or a low-fat ricotta. You won’t have the same creamy consistency, but it will still be tasty.
So, legitimate Italians out there… how close to the mark is this recipe? Am I totally off by including mushies and spinach?