If we’re talking family favourites, we have to mention lasagne. This delicious Italian classic is perfect for everyone to tuck into and is sure to please all ages.
Preparing a lasagne is particularly satisfying, and those of you who love spending time in your kitchen may want to try your hand at creating this dish from scratch.
Let’s break it down into the three main parts:
You could use dried pasta for this. No one would judge you if you did. However, there is a particular sense of achievement to be had from making your own, and it’ll really add a new dimension to your dish.
You will need:
320g plain flour
4 large eggs
1 pasta machine
When it comes to pasta, patience is key. The first step is to make your dough.
Place the flour and a generous pinch of salt in a large mound on a clean work surface and make a well in the centre.
Add your eggs to the well and beat the mixture together with a fork.
Use your hands to mix in any remaining flour and knead until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
Let it rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Next, place a clean kitchen towel on the work surface and cut the dough into 6 rectangles.
Roll each piece out until it is around ½ an inch thick.
Dust them with flour and roll them through the widest setting of your machine.
For each piece, fold it into three after rolling, dust with flour and pass it through the machine again.
Repeat this step around 10 times for each piece
Without folding, pass it through the next thinnest setting on your machine, dusting with flour each time.
Continue until your pasta reaches the same thickness you would expect from dried lasagne sheets.
Cook the pasta sheets in boiling water for 30 seconds, chilling immediately afterwards to prevent overcooking.
Ensure excess moisture is removed and set the sheets aside until you need them. Make sure they are separated by baking paper or kitchen towels so they don’t stick together.
You have a certain amount of freedom here. You’ve probably made a ragu before, whether it was for a bolognese or simply a quick pasta sauce when you got in from work. As long as you end up with a hearty, flavoursome ragu that really brings out the flavour of the meat, you’ll be fine.
Here’s just one way you could make it.
You will need:
750g beef mince
100g pancetta (optional)
4 celery sticks
2 garlic cloves
3 tbsp tomato puree
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
400ml red wine (optional)
150ml beef stock
Thyme, salt and pepper
The nice thing about ragu is it’s very much a one-pot affair. Once everything’s in, you just need to let time work its magic. Here’s how to approach this:
Fry the beef gently in oil until brown.
While this is going on, peel and chop your onion, carrot, celery and garlic.
Add these to the pan (along with the pancetta, if you’re using it) and continue frying until soft.
Add the tomato puree, thyme, salt and pepper and stir in.
Add the stock, wine and tinned tomatoes and stir in. If you’re cooking for a young family, you can leave out the wine, but you needn’t worry about using it as the alcohol will evaporate during cooking.
Leave to cook uncovered on a low heat for two hours, by which time a lot of the liquid will have evaporated.
The cheese sauce
Making a bechamel sauce is actually fairly simple. The trick is to keep it moving so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. The addition of a strong, flavoursome cheese will really bring your lasagne up a level.
You will need:
50 plain flour
50g grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
1 tsp mustard (optional)
If you’re after a thicker sauce, you might want to use a little less milk. By adding it gradually, you can achieve the desired consistency.
Melt the butter in a saucepan.
Add the flour and mix together into a paste
Gradually add the milk and whisk continuously until thick. Bear in mind that the cheese you’re about to add will make the slightly thicker again.
Add the cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper and mix in.
Mustard can give your sauce an added kick, so it’s up to you to decide whether this is something your family would enjoy.
Building your lasagne
Now comes the fun part - bringing all your carefully crafted components together to create the perfect lasagne. This is actually pretty easy.
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
Fetch an ovenproof dish and spoon ⅓ of your ragu into the bottom.
Top this with ⅓ of your cheese sauce and then arrange your first layer of pasta on top of this.
Repeat this step twice more to create your layered dish.
Add some more grated cheese on top and place in the oven for around 30-45 mins. You want the top to be golden brown and the sauce to be just bubbling up over the sides of the pasta.
For maximum impact, get the whole family gathered round the table before you place the lasagne at the centre. The reaction you get will be the perfect reward for all your hard work.
Serve the lasagne with a fresh green salad and garlic bread. Most importantly, don’t be surprised when people ask for seconds!