Having made tomato sauce, I wanted to show how versatile it is; how useful it is to have as a ‘basic’ in your recipe repertoire. A classic lasagne is a well-loved home comfort dish, that perfectly demonstrates the brilliance of the tomato sauce. One of the many reasons behind the brilliance of lasagne is its construction. The placing of the white and tomato sauces together in layers, lends a creaminess and richness to the dish. Not only do these sauces soften the sheets of pasta as it cooks in the oven, their flavours merge together in this cooking progress.
Essentially what I can say about lasagne is that it looks much better when it is cooked, and even then it still slightly resembles a product of a Year 7 Food Technology lesson. It’s pretty difficult to make it sound fancy – but that doesn’t matter, because it’s just delicious!
- Beef mince
- Bell pepper, sliced
- Button mushrooms, halved
- Salad tomato, finely sliced
- Grated cheddar
- Lasagne sheets
- Either: batch of homemade tomato sauce
OR: tinned plum tomatoes
small red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
½ tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
dried herbs – oregano/basil/thyme
salt and pepper to season
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
- In a medium saucepan, dry-fry the beef mince until it is browned. I tend to rarely use olive oil to fry mince for these types of dishes, because I find that the mince has enough fat itself to prevent it sticking. If the fat content released from the mince is particularly high, I drain the majority of it into a bowl and then throw it away later once it has hardened – if you do this, don’t put it down the sink because it clogs the pipes, and that makes the sink sad and it blocks itself 😦
- Once the mince has browned, add the pepper and mushrooms and fry gently until the vegetables have begun to soften. If you are using a ready-made tomato sauce, add this now, and bring to the boil. Reduce to a low heat, and then simmer, with a lid where possible, for around an hour.
- If not using a ready-made tomato sauce, add the sliced onion and garlic and stir. When they begin to emit an aroma, add the tinned tomatoes and stir to combine all the ingredients. Add the balsamic or red wine vinegar, and stir once more. Sprinkling in the dried herbs, season, and simmer with a lid where possible for around an hour.
- Whilst the bolognese sauce is simmering, prepare the ‘white’ (béchamel) sauce. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk, to create floury breadcrumbs or a small floury ball.
- Add the milk gradually, whisking with each addition. The floury ball will loosen in its consistency until a recognisable sauce has been achieved! Season, and set aside for later.
- When the bolognese sauce has simmered and reduced, remove it from the heat. Take a square baking dish, and spread a thin layer of the bolognese sauce on its bottom. Now arrange lasagne pasta sheets on top of the bolognese sauce layer; top the lasagne sheets with the white sauce.
- Topping the white sauce with more bolognese, the bolognese with lasagne sheets and the lasagne sheets once more with white sauce, repeat this layering process until the dish is full. The final layer should be lasagne sheets topped with white sauce – this will ensure the dish does not burn in the oven.
- Cover the top of the dish with grated cheese, season and arrange tomato slices for presentation. Place in the oven for around 25 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Serve with either a salad or green vegetables, and garlic bread for a true Italian feel!