A delicious homemade lasagne with rich beef ragu, creamy béchamel and golden cheese topping. A comfort food classic.
One hour from start-to-finish (and half of that's in the oven) and you can be serving up a big meaty-cheesy dish of lasagne, with enough for second helpings. Because we all want second helpings when it comes to lasagne right?
Serve it with a big salad (I LOVE sliced red onions, crisp lettuce and some crunchy sliced radishes in my side salad) and some buttery garlic bread.
Ah. Dinner heaven.
We start by frying onion in a pan with a little oil. Add garlic, carrot and finely chopped mushrooms (this bulks out the dish and adds flavour).
Once softened, add in the minced beef and brown in the pan, then add in tomato puree, oregano, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, a crumbled stock cube, tinned tomatoes, a little brown sugar and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes while you make the béchamel sauce.
To make the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepan, then stir in flour to form a paste. Slowly stir in milk, and keep stirring (using a hand whisk) over the heat until thickened. Stir in cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper and turn off the heat.
Now take your lasagne dish (mine is a rectangular enamel roaster, approx 31cmx25cm and 5cm deep. Here's the link enamel roaster (<--affiliate link)) and spread a little of the meat sauce over the base of the dish. You don't need a lot. It's just to stop the lasagne sheets from sticking to the base of the dish.
Top with lasagne sheets (try not to overlap, but we don't want big spaces either). Then top with a third of the béchamel, followed by a third of the meat sauce. Repeat twice more -
lasagne ->béchamel->meat sauce->lasagne->béchamel->meat sauce.
Then sprinkle on the cheese and place in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden.
Note - it will take at least 25 minutes until the pasta is cooked in the sauce - so if the top of your lasagne starts looking too brown, place some foil on top.
Serve with salad and garlic bread.
Do you know how difficult it is to photo lasagne though? I took ONE HUNDRED AND TWELVE photos, just to get a couple for this blog post. That doesn't even include process shots!
And getting lasagne into reasonably neat, defined layers when you take a slice? Yeah, that took some effort.
My usual non-blog lasagne is a quick two-layer thrown together thing, that comes out very saucy - i.e you have to spoon it out of the dish. A spatula isn't going to do it.
This one uses three layers of pasta - which is the perfect sauce-to-pasta ratio to get it out neatly.
So, if you like extra saucy, kind of messy looking lasagne, go for two layers of pasta (same amount of meat and white sauce). If you like neater lasagne slices, go for three pasta layers. If you like it ridiculously saucy, just go for my lasagne soup (it's a winner!).
*Pro tip* if you want your lasagne to look really neat - we're talking razor-sharp edges here - make it ahead, let it cool completely, refrigerate it, then reheat it. During that time the pasta will soak up more liquid, leaving you with a sharp finish. I didn't do this, because, well I couldn't wait and I wanted to eat it.
Can I make ahead?
Yes, make the lasagne and bake it for 20 minutes - until the cheese is lightly browned. Then cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Take out of the refrigerator an hour before you want to bake it - to allow it to come up to room temperature (this helps to avoid cold spots in the middle when you reheat). Place in the oven, covered in foil for 20-25 minutes at 200C/400F until piping hot throughout.
Can I freeze lasagne?
Yes, make the lasagne and bake it for 20 minutes - until the cheese is lightly browned. Then cool, cover and freeze. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and then take out of the refrigerator an hour before you want to bake it - to allow it to come up to room temperature (this helps to avoid cold spots in the middle when you reheat). Place in the oven, covered in foil for 20-25 minutes at 200C/400F until piping hot throughout.
Fresh or dried pasta?
My lasagne is made using dried pasta - the kind that you don't need to pre-cook. I find this is easier to store (I always have it on hand in my cupboard), it lasts longer and it absorbs more of the flavour of the sauce than fresh lasagne sheets.
If you wanted to buy or make fresh pasta then, fresh lasagne sheets are useful if you want your lasagne to cook quicker (although they can sometimes require pre-cooking in boiling water for a couple of minutes). I find it takes at least 20 minutes to get a lovely golden brown cheese topping anyway. So using fresh pasta sheets doesn't really save me any time overall.
And as for dried lasagne sheets that need pre-cooking in boiling water? I avoid them at all costs. No-one needs to waste their time on that! Plus I find they can stick together unless you use water and lots of olive oil in your pan. Too much effort!
What is the difference between lasagna and lasagne?
Lasagna actually the singular form of lasagne. So you'd have one sheet of lasagna, but many would make up the dish lasagne.
Many countries, including the USA use lasagna as the spelling for the whole dish though (whereas the UK spell it lasagne).
How many layers should lasagne have?
Three or four layers of pasta is ideal (and the most common), but you can have more if you have enough sauce to cover the layers!
What can I serve this recipe with?
Salad is always a winner - I like a simple salad of thinly sliced red onions, crisp lettuce and some crunchy sliced radishes, but if you want something a little more fancy, how about this cobb salad?
No-one's going to refuse garlic bread! Go for shop bought, or if you want an upgrade, try my homemade cheese and tomato garlic bread.
How to make Lasagne
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion - peeled and finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic - peeled and minced
- 1 carrot - peeled and finely diced
- 3 chestnut (brown) mushrooms - finely diced
- 1 pound (500g) minced beef (ground beef) - 12-20% fat, don't go for the really lean stuff, it's too dry
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 beef stock cube - crumbled
- 28 oz (2 x 400g) canned chopped tomatoes
- ½ tbsp light brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 4 tbsp butter - salted or unsalted is fine
- 4 tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
- 3 cups (720ml) full fat milk
- 1 pinch salt and pepper
- 1 packed cup (100g) cheddar cheese - grated
- 12 sheets of dried lasagne - the kind you don’t need to pre-cook
- 1 3/4 cups (175g) mixed grated cheese. - I use a combination of regular cheddar, red cheddar and mozzarella
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onion softens.
- Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
- Add the carrot and mushrooms and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Add the minced beef and cook for 5-6 minutes, until browned. Stir often, breaking up any large chunks of meat with a spatula.
- Add the tomato puree, oregano, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock cube, tinned tomatoes, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 15 -20 minutes until thickened.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 200C/400F and start on the Béchamel Sauce:
- In a medium sized saucepan, add the butter and melt over a medium heat. Once melted and bubbling slightly, add in the flour and whisk it into the butter.
- Keep gently whisking the roux over the heat for one or two minutes to cook the flour. Add in a good splash of milk, turn up the heat and stir with the whisk to incorporate.
- Keep adding in the milk a good splash at a time, and whisking until all the milk is used up (this normally takes me about 3 or 4 minutes and I add the milk in about 5 splashes). Don't worry if you get a few lumps, keep stirring with the whisk and they will disappear as the sauce thickens.
- Keep stirring the sauce with the whisk over the heat until your sauce thickens. Once thickened, add in the salt & pepper and cheddar. Stir together and then turn off the heat.
- Now it's time to construct your lasagne. You’ll need a large, reasonably deep lasagne dish (mine is a rectangular enamel roaster, approx 31cmx25cm and 5cm deep. Here's the link enamel roaster (<--affiliate link)), but anything reasonably close to those measurements will be fine).
- Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the meat sauce into the lasagne dish and flatten it so it covers the base. You don't need much - this is just to ensure the lasagne sheets don't stick to the bottom of your dish. Then cover with 4 lasagne sheets. Try to ensure they don’t overlap. You may need to break up one of the sheets to cover the dish fully.
- Next spoon on a third of the béchamel sauce and spread it around to cover the lasagne sheets, Then cover with a third of the remaining meat sauce.
- Place a layer of lasagne sheets on top. Followed by a layer of béchamel sauce and meat sauce. Repeat one more time, until all of the sauce and lasagne sheets are used.
- Sprinkle the mixed cheese on top.
- Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese is golden and the lasagne is bubbling slightly at the edges. Take out of the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes before sprinkling with parsley and serving.
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