So, I realised when reading back my old “Lasagne a la Me” post that I didn’t actually share my own recipe for lasagne. I suppose, at the time, I was using the recipe that’s linked there, just tweaking a few little bits, but not enough to warrant an entirely new recipe. A few years, give or take, and I’ve refined my lasagne making skills somewhat, combining the best bits of some of my favourite recipes to create my own tried and tested version.
I’m still using a Mary Berry recipe, albeit not one that's actually for lasagne. The ‘meat sauce’ is actually a ragù bolognese recipe, but it’s very versatile and works really well for this dish. I’m not going to lie: it’s not something you want to try to accomplish for a quick evening meal, as it’s not a speedy thing to make; but, if you’ve got a number of guests coming round - or are feeling a bit like Garfield - you’ll probably want to give this one a try. For starters, this one's got wine in it...
There's something about adding wine to a dish that makes it that much more unctuous and gives food such a depth of flavour. When you use wine in cooking, it needs time to simmer away, burning off the alcohol to impart its properties to the other ingredients. This is so much like the time we need to give ourselves after a life-altering event and why I think it took me a while to get back into cooking after my Nan passed away.
She was the person I learned to cook with and watched in the kitchen; when I'd built up enough confidence, she'd let me take over, with the odd "not, like that - like this..." sprinkled in for good measure. I miss that time we spent together more than I can say - I'm so grateful for her wisdom and patience, not just in cooking, but in every area of my life. I can't wait to share her knowledge, and the tips I've picked up since, with my own children one day.
This lasagne is adapted from a couple of Mary Berry’s recipes. Having a few vegetarian/vegan friends (and a friend who doesn’t eat pork), I realise this recipe might not be the one for you; however, Mary Berry does make an excellent vegetarian lasagne in this book, which I’m sure could be adapted for vegan eaters. Also, if you’re unable to eat pork, you could remove the pancetta from this recipe and swap out the pork mince for a double helping of beef - it wouldn’t taste quite the same, but it’d still be pretty damn delicious.
If you’re feeling somewhat adventurous in the kitchen one afternoon, why not try whipping this up? Full of deep, hearty flavours, this beloved pasta dish is one you won’t want to miss.
Prep time: 1hr or so
Cooking time: 2hrs 45mins
Tip: This recipe easily makes a large lasagne that will feed 6 (or 4 very hungry people), with probably a little sauce leftover. You can make a double batch of the sauce, and either use it, or freeze it for later - your future self will thank you.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
- 500g lean minced pork
- 500g lean minced beef
- 1 pkg (roughly 130g) cubed pancetta or smoked bacon
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste (if you have it; if not, just use normal tomato paste)
- 1x small bottle (150-ish ml) white wine
- 500g passata
- 1x tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
- 200ml beef stock
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp chopped thyme (I used Italian seasoning, because that’s what I had in the cupboard)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 4 tbsp double cream (I used lacto-free cream)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Lasagne sheets - fresh or dried, whichever your preference* (You’ll use more or less based on the dish you use, so I won’t specify a number - make sure it's a deep dish!)
- 60g butter
- 45g flour
- 600ml milk
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard (tip from a friend)
- A pinch of grated nutmeg (I don’t add this, but do so, if that's what you like)
- (Good) mature cheddar cheese, grated
- Parmesan, grated
*Tip: I’ve used both fresh lasagne sheets and dried for this recipe, and each works fine. For an easier time, fresh is better, because you don’t have to cook it first and it’s also less flimsy; however, it’s more expensive and you end up buying two packets, then not using it all - if you're like me, you'll have a top-freezer drawer with loads of leftover sheets and not much to use them for. I tried dried lasagne sheets this time: it was more fiddly, but they were par-cooked (softened) in about 2-3 mins each sheet, and it meant we cooked what we needed.
Preheat the oven to 180°c
Making the ragù bolognese sauce (Source: 'Mary Berry: Everyday')
- Heat a little bit of oil in a cast iron casserole pot (Dutch oven) or lidded ovenproof saucepan/casserole dish
- Fry off the pancetta cubes until brown (not quite crispy) - remove and drain on a plate with a paper towel
- Heat the 2 tbsp of oil - add the onion, carrot and celery, frying over a high heat for 5–6 minutes, until starting to soften
- Add the pork and beef mince, then fry until browned; remove any excess liquid/fat
- Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds, then add in the tomato paste and stir
- Add the passata, tomatoes, stock, herbs and wine; season with salt and pepper, then bring to the boil
- Cover with the lid and cook in the oven for about an hour
- After an hour has passed, take the pot out of the oven and stir in the cream; once you’ve done that, return to the oven (with the lid off) for another hour, until tender and reduced
- Set aside to cool slightly - you can freeze this sauce as it is and then defrost before you want to make the lasagne (it’s actually a bolognese sauce recipe, so could also just be used with some other type of pasta e.g. tagliatelle or rigatoni)
Making the white sauce (source: ‘Absolute Favourites’ by Mary Berry)
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir for 1 minute
- Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the milk
- Bring to a boil, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens - you can move to a silicon spoon, if you have one, to scrape the bowl and get in the corners (a wooden spoon works reasonably well, if not)
- Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the mustard, salt and pepper to taste (and nutmeg, if using) - set aside
Assemble the lasagne
- (If using fresh pasta, ignore this step) Bring a pot of water to the boil, add salt, then add the pasta - cook according to packet instructions; once it’s done, drain and set aside
- Line the bottom of your dish with a few spoonfuls of the white sauce, then lay the sheets of pasta on top - you may need to trim these to fit
- Top with 1/3 of the meat sauce, 1/4 of the white sauce, then another layer of pasta, making sure to reach the edges of the dish
- Repeat the previous step 2 times
- Top with the remaining white sauce, then the Cheddar and parmesan cheeses
- Bake for 40 - 45 minutes in a 180°c oven (checking at about 30-40 minutes for how well done it is - if it needs longer, leave it in for another 5 - 10 minutes; it will depend on your oven)
Tip: The lasagne itself also freezes really well once made up, so don’t be afraid to pop leftovers in the freezer - if you have any. You could also make one up in advance, freezing before the last 45 minute baking stage. You’ll thank me later...
Give me a shout if you make this recipe and send a photo of your creation - I’d love to see. Hopefully, it might help someone who's finding things tough right now, even if it's just to cook something delicious that makes them feel a little better. Food is medicine for the soul (or one aspect, at least)! It must be why people coined phrases "comfort food" and "soul food." Have you ever made a recipe that's got you through difficult times? Let me know on Twitter...
NOTE: This post has been retrospectively edited, as it previously made reference to Bon Appetit, a YouTube channel and company I was very much a fan of a few years back. Unfortunately, I was not aware of the controversies at work there, and having discovered these and educated myself, I no longer hold them in the high esteem I previously did. As such, I don't wish to highlight those that caused - or participated in - the marginalisation of their co-workers that identify as belonging to minoritised groups.