This might sound funny but, while I still sometimes need to stop and think how long a hard-boiled egg needs to be boiled for, I could literally make lasagna in my sleep. Sauce, pasta, sauce, cheese, pasta, sauce, cheese, pasta, sauce, cheese…yep, it’s that simple! Sure, you have to actually make the sauce before you can spread it over the pasta and under the cheese, but I promise, anyone can do it! Like most mouth-watering Italian dishes that seem way too incredibly delicious for any normal being to recreate them, well, it is!
I’ve lived in four different cities and three different countries, and in each one of them I was also known as “The Lasagna Queen”. Great nickname, right? Not! So since this morning I woke up with an overtaking desire to make lasagna, I guess the time has come for me to pass on my super secret lasagna recipe…and my nickname too!
800g canned tomatoes
500g minced meat
500g fresh (or dry) pasta sheets
250ml red wine
1 large mozzarella, finely diced
300g grated parmesan cheese
1 celery stick
1 garlic clove
500ml warm milk
Salt & pepper
For the tomato sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a pan. Roughly chop the carrot, celery and onion, and add them to the pan with the garlic. Sautè for 3-4 minutes, or until the celery and onion are translucent. Add the minced meat and let it brown completely. Pour in the red wine and cook for 2-3 minutes to let the alcohol evaporate. When you can no longer smell the alcohol, pour in the canned tomatoes and let the sauce simmer on medium/low heat for about 20 minutes. The sauce should be cooked, but should not become too thick as it will keep cooking later in the oven.
Side note: this is a simple ragout sauce, which can be used as a pasta sauce as well.
For the besciamelle sauce:
In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter on low heat. Add the flour to the butter and stir quickly to make a nice, smooth mixture. Cook until the mixture no longer tastes/smells floury. This is very important as the taste of flour is very prominent when not cooked properly, and may overpower your sauce. Also, raw flour is not good for you!. Pour the warm milk onto the mixture and quickly stir to avoid creating lumps. Make sure the heat is low as too much heat will thicken the sauce too quickly. Stir constantly until you reach a creamy consistency. Season to taste and mix the besciamelle sauce to the tomato sauce to make your lasagna base.
Once you have your sauce ready, all that’s left to do it assemble it!! So like I said earlier, start with a layer of sauce to moisten the bottom layer. Top with a layer of pasta. Add another layer of sauce, and cover it with mozzarella cubes and parmesan cheese. Continue until you have four layers. Finish with a layer of parmesan cheese. That’s how you get that gorgeous crispy layer on top!
Cook in the oven at 180˚C for 20 minutes, giving it an extra final 5 minutes on the “grill” setting. You’ll be fighting for those little crispy bits! Buon Appetito!