Nov 09 2008

To Make Lasagne

Like so many classic Italian dishes, lasagne varies from region to region. Internationally, of course, it has developed another identity altogether as a readymade dish available everywhere which, like Pizza, bears little resemblance to its country of origin.
We are most accustomed to a variation made up of a meat and tomato sauce, a simplified ragu, layered with a cheese sauce and sheets of easy-cook pasta. It does take time to prepare so it’s worth doubling up on the quantities for a big group of friends or for portions in the freezer.
500gms lasagne
750 ml Bechamel sauce….homemade or good quality ready made
150 gms grated parmesan cheese
Ragu; see below
The Ragu
200gms minced beef or mixed pork and beef
55gms chopped prosciutto or streaky bacon
1 chopped onion, carrot, celery stalk
3 tablespoons tomato puree
A glass of red wine
A little beef or chicken stock
Butter and oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Melt butter with a little oil in a heavy flat pan; the oil stops the butter burning. Fry the vegetables and bacon gently till soft. Add the meat and brown a further ten minutes. Stir in the wine and allow it to bubble to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Stir in tomato puree and a little stock to loosen the ragu to a sauce like consistency. Simmer for 1 ½ hours adding more stock if it becomes dry. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To assemble the dish:
First carefully read the instructions for the lasagne: some need cooking in boiling water before assembly and some are ready cooked and can go in straight from the packet!
Spread a layer of béchamel sauce on the bottom of a large flat gratin dish. Follow with a single layer of lasagne. Nest some of the Ragu, then more lasagne and so on. Finish with Bechamel and a thick layer of the cheese. Bake in a hot oven for thirty minutes until golden on top. Remove from the oven and allow to set for ten minutes before serving.
In his wonderful book, Complete Italian Food, Antonio Carluccio adds fried courgette, aubergine, spinach balls and porcini between each layer of lasagne and ragu; a truly sumptuous version!

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