Beef, Bolognese, Comfort food, dinner, Italian, Lasagne, Mince, Pasta, Pasta Sauce, Ragu, Recipe, Uncategorized

Comforting homemade lasagne recipe

What says home cooked comfort food quite like a freshly baked cheesy lasagne straight from the oven? This recipe is like a hug on a plate, with rich hearty ragù sauce layered with creamy, indulgent béchamel sauce and soft pasta sheets, all topped off with a generous covering of gooey melted cheese.

If your mouth is already watering, scroll to the bottom of this post for the recipe now!

Ingredients in a wooden box

This is the lasagne recipe my sister always requested for Friday night pasta (an institution at my parents’ house) and when she came home from university. It’s also the recipe my fiancé Chris wasn’t really bothered about until he actually tried it. He was hovering around the kitchen asking why I was making the béchamel, why didn’t I use a jar of Bolognese sauce, but when he tried the finished lasagne, he realized why.

All homemade sauces are made from scratch in my parents’ kitchen, and as a result, I have grown up used to these – and with very high standards as a result! I do cook with premade sauces, but when I have the time, I’d rather cook from scratch, especially with Italian food, where a little love and care, and some fresh ingredients makes all the difference!

Infusing milk for bechamel sauce

I do tend to buy ready-made lasagne sheets, though. You can buy fresh pasta sheets in the chilled section of supermarkets, which are perfect for this recipe. I did have a go at making my own pasta, but it takes a while, so unless I have a few hours to kill, I don’t usually bother.

You can read more about when I made my own pasta here.

The difference in flavour from making homemade sauces is amazing, and definitely worth the effort, especially for the veg infused béchamel sauce recipe I’ve learnt from Mum. It’s silky, flavoursome and far from bland. (It’s also perfect for cauliflower cheese, so make sure you save any leftovers in the freezer!) Combined with mouth-watering rich beef ragù, slow cooked with veg, herbs, garlic and red wine, every mouthful is completely delicious. Are you hungry yet? Good – let’s get cooking!

Ragu sauce for lasagne

Homemade lasagne recipe
Serves 4-5, cooking time 2 hours

Ingredients
1 pack fresh lasagne sheets
100g grated cheddar cheese

For the ragù:
500g lean 5% fat beef mince
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 carrot
1 onion
1 stick of celery
2 rashers of bacon, fat trimmed off, cut into 1cm pieces (optional)
125ml red wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
2 tsp pesto
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
handful of fresh basil leaves
salt & pepper to taste

For the béchamel:
400ml semi skimmed milk
40g butter
20g plain flour
8 peppercorns
1 bay leaf (I keep a pack of fresh ones in the freezer!)
Bouquet garnis or tsp of mixed dried herbs
½ carrot, in chunks
½ onion, in chunks
½ stick of celery, in chunks
½ tsp nutmeg

Method:
First, make the ragù.
Add the mince to a non-stick frying pan over a high heat.
Brown the meat, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks.
Remove from the heat and set to one side.
In a non-stick casserole pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over a low heat, add the garlic and sweat until it becomes fragrant.
Add the onion, carrot and celery, and bacon if using. Turn up the heat and fry for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the red wine and bring to a simmer. Add the browned mince with a slotted spoon, to drain off any excess fat (make sure you dispose of this carefully).
Stir in the oregano, dried Italian herbs, pesto, chopped tomatoes, beef stock pot or cube, tomato puree and basil leaves. Rinse out the tomato tins with a splash of water and add this too.
Bring the ragù to the boil, cover and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

While the ragù cooks, make the béchamel sauce.
Put the milk into a saucepan, with the carrot, onion, celery, bay leaf, peppercorns, bouquet garnis and nutmeg.
Gently warm the milk over a medium heat until it starts to simmer, then take off the heat. Leave it to infuse for 20 minutes, then strain the milk through a sieve into a jug.
Gently melt the butter over a low heat in a saucepan, them add the flour and mix into a paste.
Then, mix in the milk using a balloon whisk. Pour in a little at a time, making sure it’s mixed really thoroughly into the butter and flour before adding more, to prevent lumps forming.
As soon as you add milk, the mixture will thicken immediately. Don’t worry this is completely normal! As long as you keep mixing, it will start to become a white sauce. When you’ve got about half of the milk in, it will start to look much more like a white sauce.
Once all the milk is mixed in, continue to heat over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent a skin forming, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of double cream.
When all the milk is mixed in, you should have a smooth white sauce. Remove it from the heat and put to one side until you’re ready to assemble.

When the ragù is cooked, preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Layer up the lasagne in an oven proof dish. Start by covering the base of the dish with ragù, then drizzle with béchamel sauce before adding a pasta sheet layer. I keep some scissors on had to cut the sheets to fit my dish.
Repeat the layers until the dish is full, or you run out of sauce, and top the final layer with béchamel sauce and the grated cheese.  (Make sure you save any left-over sauces and pasta sheets in the freezer for quick fix meals!)
Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, and crispy at the edges.
Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Lasagne serving

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