So, I made us a Beef Lasagne, inspired by a recipe on Chef John's Food Wishes Blog. I used wholewheat pasta sheets as that was all I had in the cupboard, and no mushrooms as I had none. It came out pretty damn good, if a little burnt on the edges... oozy, flavourful and the pasta had a good bite to it. Comfort eating to the max.
Now. We should have let it cool for 10-15 minutes before serving but we are greedy people and just dove right in. Unfortunately, that meant it didn't have time to set and instead came out very gloopy, like this:
Not pretty. But VERY tasty.
As Chef John says, the key to a good lasagne is a kickass tomato sauce and a kickass cheese sauce. As long as you have these two you can't go wrong.
For the tomato sauce I used:
2 cloves garlic
A handful of frozen sliced peppers
500 g minced beef
Tin plum tomatoes
Small tin tomato puree/half a tube
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
Half cup water
Sweat onion and garlic until soft. Add beef. Cook the beef down until all liquid has evaporated, beef is golden and crackling. Add herbs, puree and tomatoes, a pinch of salt and pepper, and half a cup of water. Simmer for as long as possible - an hour at least, but the longer the better.
For the cheese sauce:
4 tbsp all purpose flour
Big chunk of butter
Mature cheddar cheese
Pinch of salt
Lots of black pepper
I'm sorry I can't be more accurate with the measurements for the cheese sauce but I tend to make it very fast, judging amounts by instinct. Melt butter and flour over low heat until it cooks and looks like scrambled eggs - be careful not to burn as this will flavour the sauce. Raise the temperature slightly. Confidently, whisk in small amounts of milk. The key is to whisk hard and continually. The sauce will thicken quickly. Keep adding until the sauce is right consistency - creamy but not runny. Add lots of mature cheddar (or whatever cheese you like) until it is as cheesy as you like - I made ours very cheesy as it works great with the sweet tomatoes and beef. Season with a pinch of salt and a generous amount of ground black pepper.
I like to par-cook the pasta sheets in salted water until it starts to bend - maybe 5 mins.
Now layer it up! Use a deep lasagne tray, casserole dish or a pie dish with high sides. Start with beef sauce on the bottom, then cover with pasta sheets, cheese sauce, beef sauce, and on and on until you run out. Make sure you have beef sauce on the top at the end. Cover with grated cheese (I also put a layer of parmesan on the top with gave us a lovely crispy crust) and put in preheated (200) oven for 30/40 mins. Leave to stand and cool for 10-15 mins so that it will set and be easier to serve.
This is the basic recipe. You can add whatever you like to the sauce to jazz it up - mushrooms, black olives, chilli, spinach, whatever takes your fancy.