How to make… the perfect Lasagne with Sue Ashworth

SERVES 4-6

Love lasagne? Who doesn’t! Follow Sue’s easy step-by-step recipe for success on a plate.

A great friend of Lakeland (she writes lots of our recipes), Sue believes that it’s so important to have well-written recipes that are easy to follow and give great results – without any hassle – just like this one.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500g lean minced beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp Italian mixed dried herbs
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-8 lasagne sheets
  • 500ml milk
  • 40g plain flour
  • 25g butter
  • 150g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan, then over a high heat add the minced beef a handful at a time – don’t stir it too much, as it needs to sear. This is important as it helps seal and brown the meat to give a good flavour. A frying pan works well, as the meat browns more easily over the larger surface area.
  2. Add the onion and garlic to the frying pan with the dried herbs. Cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, then add the chopped tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes without a lid, so that the liquid reduces to give you a rich, meaty tomato sauce. Season. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
  3. The easiest way to make a smooth white sauce is by the all-in-one method. Simply put the milk, flour and butter into a non-stick saucepan (it will look impossible at this stage) then heat gently, whisking constantly with a silicone-coated wire whisk until the sauce boils and thickens. Turn down the heat to low and cook gently for another minute, still stirring all the time. 
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add half the grated cheese. Stir thoroughly (you can use a wooden spoon now) so that the heat of the sauce melts the cheese – there’s no need to return it to the hob. Cheese can go stringy if it’s melted over a high heat, so this is the best method. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon half the mince mixture into a large rectangular baking dish and spread it evenly over the base. Cover with half the lasagne sheets. If the lasagne sheets are a bit too large, you can snip them close to the edge with a pair of scissors to trim them a little to fit. Depending on the size of your dish, you may need 3 or 4 lasagne sheets here.
  6. Spoon over half the cheese sauce and spread over the lasagne sheets with the back of a wooden spoon. Now repeat the layers of meat mixture, lasagne sheets and cheese sauce once more, spreading the sauce evenly over the top.
  7. Finally, sprinkle the remaining Cheddar evenly over the surface, then finish off with the grated Parmesan. This combination of cheeses works really well to give a great flavour, though you could just use mature Cheddar if you prefer. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown on the surface. Leave for 10 minutes to settle a little, so that it’s easier to serve.

 

Added extras

Leafy Italian Salad
A fresh green salad makes the ideal accompaniment. Simply combine mixed leaves with a few halved baby plum tomatoes and a handful of black or green olives. Make the dressing by whisking together 2 tbsp red wine vinegar or lemon juice with 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard and a little salt and pepper. Add to the salad and toss just before serving, scattered with a few basil leaves.

Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagne
For 2 people, chop 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, 1 courgette and 1 small red onion. Gently fry in 1 tbsp olive oil until softened. Add 300ml tomato pasta sauce, then layer in a small baking dish with 4 lasagne sheets (2 in the middle, 2 on top). Make half the quantity of cheese sauce (following main recipe) and pour over the top. Sprinkle with cheese and bake as before.

 

Troubleshooting

Got a query? Let Sue help.

Q  I’m trying to eat less red meat. Any tips?
You can substitute turkey mince for beef – it makes a really good alternative. Or try using half minced beef and half plant-based mince, adding the plant-based mince with the onion. Both options will reduce the fat content.

Q  I used to pre-cook lasagne sheets. Is that not required now?
A  Lasagne sheets don’t need pre-cooking these days – so that has saved a rather tedious task.

Q   I like to grow my own herbs. Can I use these?
A   Absolutely. You’ll need 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs instead of dried – try a combination of basil, oregano or marjoram, chives and parsley.

Q  How can I enhance the flavour of the meat sauce?
A  Salt and pepper are the essentials, though a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar (preferably muscovado) will balance the flavours beautifully.

Q  How should I freeze lasagne?
A  Cool quickly, then freeze as soon as you can in a freezer-safe storage box (Lakeland’s Stack-a-Boxes are perfect) – and freeze for up to 2 months.

 

5 Golden Rules

  1. Good ingredients count – especially with the meat and cheese. No problem using economy tomatoes though.
  2. Be feisty when browning the meat. High heat helps, or else it ends up stewing.
  3. Don’t be bland. Good seasoning is vital – taste and adjust as you go along.
  4. When you’re making the sauce, give it your full attention – don’t wander off or take a phone call.
  5. Difficulty serving? Try using scissors to cut the top layer of lasagne sheets, then use a sharp knife. A fish slice will help you serve neatly.
 
Recipes and food styling:  Sue Ashworth
Photography:  Jonathan Short