- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Got a query? Let Sue help.
Q I’m trying to eat less red meat. Any tips?
A 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
- Good ingredients count – especially with the meat and cheese. No problem using economy tomatoes though.
- Be feisty when browning the meat. High heat helps, or else it ends up stewing.
- Don’t be bland. Good seasoning is vital – taste and adjust as you go along.
- When you’re making the sauce, give it your full attention – don’t wander off or take a phone call.
- 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
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