We all love our own mother’s comfort meals and by far and away my favourite was her lasagne. When I was thirteen, the eldest of three busy little ladies, our mammy died after battling cancer for almost two years. It was a very sad and difficult time for all of us. Any of you who have lost someone close and special will appreciate and understand that. One of the ways of helping with life and moving forward is by chatting about the person and reminiscing on those endless good memories and happy times you shared. One way I can relive a very happy and comforting feeling is in some of the foods she showed me to make and shared with me. Food really is love in so many ways, just like Nigella’s quote in my “About” post! This is a meal I believe you should take your time over and put a lot of love into. Don't be turned off by the method that may seem a little long or complicated, just take it at your own pace, and I am quite positive you'll want to make it again and again!
This lasagne is quite healthy as my mother always insisted we eat plenty of veg and, although this is not a veggie meal by any stretch, vegetables do play a big part. I have also slightly adjusted the recipe down through the years, while keeping it as close as possible to the original. I hope you like it and please let me know if you have a secret and/or special lasagne recipe or lasagne ingredient even - if you feel so kind as to share! I find that comfort food such as this, is something very personal, but I’ve cooked this for many the friend and family member, and more often than not, clean plates are the outcome. Enough said! Now, for the cooking!
|Quartered mushrooms, diced red and yellow peppers, grated courgette and chopped garlic and thyme|
Oh yes, you will also need a frying pan, a saucepan, an ovenproof dish and a whisk is very useful too.
The Bolognese part -
- Olive oil
- 500g best quality minced beef
- 3 maple cured rashers (chopped, or snipped with a scissors – handy tip)
- 1 large / 2 medium onions, diced (white or red)
- Garlic, finely chopped or minced (as many cloves as you so desire!)
- A good sprig of fresh herbs, chopped (rosemary, thyme or basil)
- 150ml red wine (optional)
- 650 – 700g chopped veg (I use a selection e.g. 2 peppers, 2 carrots, 1 courgette – grated, mushrooms, sweet corn, 2 - 3 celery sticks – use whatever is fresh and available)
- 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- ½ tube / 100g tomato paste
- Salt and pepper
- 12 – 15 pre-cooked lasagne sheets – I love Barilla or De Cecco
The roux sauce part:
- 100g hard cheese – I used Kilmeaden Light Mature
- 40g flour
- 40g butter
- Approx. 300ml low fat milk
- 15 – 20 fresh gratings of nutmeg
Begin with the Bolognese
- Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan, when hot; add in the onions along with a good pinch of salt.
- Allow the onions to cook to a light golden colour for 3 – 4 minutes on a gentle heat.
- Bring up the heat and tip all of the minced beef into the pan and use a wooden spoon to break it up.
- When the meat is nicely browned, pour in the wine (if using), and allow it to cook off.
- Next, add in the more robust vegetables, e.g. carrots, peppers, celery. I always leave the mushrooms until last.
- Stir in the garlic and fresh herbs.
- The final addition of vegetables can go into the pan now. Give everything a really good stir through.
- Squeeze in the tomato paste and add the full tin of tomatoes. Mix through well. Don’t be tempted to add water or stock now, as during the cooking time, the Bolognese will become more liquid and juicier.
- At this point, taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Turn down the heat to quite low and leave the Bolognese mixture to cook through for at least 30 minutes, up to two hours, if time allows.
- Do a final taste and seasoning test and adjustment once your Bolognese is suitably cooked.
The roux sauce is up next! (To be made 15 - 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time of the Bolognese; I always find a whisk is the best thing to use for making a roux)
- Preheat your oven to 190/200 degrees C / 380 degrees F / gas mark 5 (in preparation for the lasagne).
- Melt the butter in a saucepan on the hob.
- When fully melted, take the saucepan off the heat and add in the flour, little by little.
- Mix the flour and butter constantly throughout this process.
- Return the pan to the heat and proceed to allow the mixture to cook gently, while still stirring for a couple of minutes.
- Slowly add the milk into the pan, while whisking continuously.
- There may be some lumps initially, but these will disappear as you continue to whisk.
- Finally add in about three quarters of the cheese, the grated nutmeg, and some salt and pepper if you wish.
- Taste the sauce and set aside for a moment off the heat.
The assembly and oven part
- Take your ovenproof dish and pour in one third of the Bolognese, then layer the pasta sheets on top to cover the meat and veg mixture. Pour just a little cheesy sauce on top of this. Repeat this step again.
- Now, for a third time, add the last of your Bolognese mixture onto the lasagne sheets. Top with the remaining lasagne sheets ensuring all the Bolognese is well covered. Drizzle the rest of the roux sauce on the very top and spread it out carefully. Scatter the rest of the grated cheese on the very top and if you choose you can grate some more nutmeg over the lasagne at this point as well.
- Oven time! Place your lasagne into the preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes. Do be careful of your oven and check your lasagne every so often as you want a nice golden brown appearance.
- Once cooked and ready, rest the lasagne for about 5 minutes, cut it up into generous portions and enjoy with some fresh salad, garlic bread, a glass of wine – you choose!
- Finally - Buon appetito!