When you are cooking for a crowd you can't beat a Classic Lasagne, layered with a rich and delicious ragu, velvety smooth bechamel sauce, tender pasta and of course plenty of oozing melted cheese. It might take a bit of time to make but the great thing about this dish is that you can easily make it ahead of time then just bake it when you are ready to. It also freezes well which is another bonus and if that's not enough, Lasagne is a fantastic family meal that is guaranteed to be a hit with even fussy eaters (trust me, I have a 2 year old!). There is a reason Lasagne is a classic recipe that people turn to over and over and it is definitely making more appearances in our house to keep everyone happy and satisfied!
Serve with a green salad and some crusty garlic or French bread and you have the perfect meal for any occasion.
For this version (the one pictured) I actually ended up doubling the Ragu recipe (due to mistakingly defrosting too much mince!). It ended up being perfect although I didn't use it all. I kept some (about 1/4) to freeze but I think next time I would just add it all for an extra big, comforting Lasagne that will happily feed 12 or alternatively use 2 dishes to both serve 6 and keep one for now and freeze the other for later!
The Lasagne Dish I use is 23cm x 33cm
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1kg beef mince/ ground beef (the best quality you can get)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 x 400g (2 x 28oz tin) Tinned tomatoes – crushed, chopped or whole – whatever you prefer
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried Italian herbs or oregano
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (optional)
2 bay leaves
500ml beef stock
2 carrots, peeled & grated
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt & Pepper
Lasagne Sheets (I use No Cook pasta and use about 12 sheets but if making 2 lasagnes you might need more)
100g mozzarella cheese, grated
30g parmesan cheese, finely grated
Fresh basil leaves to serve
Start by making the ragu. In a large pan heat the olive oil then add the diced onions and saute for roughly 6 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute before adding the mince, breaking it up as you add it using either a wooden spoon or fork so that you don’t have any large lumps of mince. Once the mince has browned completely add the balsamic vinegar and allow to reduce (which will take no time!) before adding the tomatoes, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, Italian herbs or oregano, salt, sugar (if using) bay leaves, stock, the grated carrot, some freshly ground black pepper. Stir well so that everything is well combined then leave to simmer gently for at least1 hour, stirring from time to time, so that the ragu reduces, thickens and intensifies in flavour. It's important that it isn't too runny or you will be left with a soupy lasagne! Once it's ready taste to check the seasoning then stir in the fresh parsley.
While the ragu is simmering make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a medium sized pan then add the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until it is well mixed together then continue to cook for another couple of minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Slowly whisk in 750ml of the milk, whisking continuously to avoid any lumps then over a low heat bring to a gentle simmer so that the sauce thickens. Once at a simmer cook for another minute then remove from the heat. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg (if using) and taste to check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Set aside until ready to use, whisking from time to time. If when ready to use the bechamel sauce has become too thick I tend to add the extra 100ml of milk to thin it slightly and to ensure there is enough.
Pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 180C.
When you are ready to assemble the Lasagne, grease a lasagne dish with a little butter then put a layer of the ragu on the bottom. Top with some lasagne sheets then add 1/3 of the bechamel sauce and half of the remaining ragu. Top with more lasagne sheets then another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce followed by the remaining ragu. Finish with a final layer of lasagne sheets and the remaining bechamel then sprinkle over the grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until golden and bubbling. Leave to stand for a good 5 minutes before cutting up and serving then enjoy with a sprinkling of fresh basil on top.
*Short of time? Use your favourite tomato sauce instead of making your own. Simply cook the onion, garlic and mince as above, then add two jarred sauces as a time-saver.