a traditional lasagne


well, when i say traditional, i mean the sort of lasagne that a lot of people would expect to be served if they just saw the word “lasagne” on a menu. to me this involves a rich meaty ragu, layered with pasta and topped with a béchamel sauce. is that what you would expect?

i find this sort of lasagne hugely comforting and i often turn to it if i want to make something that is guaranteed to deliver the foodie equivalent of a warmth bath, a hug from david or a long lie-in.

if you’re a fan of lasagne, or have an equivalent comfort dish, and haven’t had it for a while, treat yourself. you know you should…

this dish is my contribution to presto pasta nights, as hosted by ruth at once upon a feast.

lasagne (serves 4-6)

for the ragu:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

100g smoked pancetta, chopped into pieces

500g lean beef mince

150ml red wine

800g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 heaped teaspoon sugar*

50ml milk**

2 sprigs basil plus a handful of chopped basil leaves

1 bay leaf

400ml water

salt & pepper

lasagne sheets

for the topping:***

500g crème fraiche

50g grated parmesan

1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves

100g grated cheddar

heat the olive oil and add the garlic and pancetta. when the pancetta is cooked and you can smell the garlic add the mince and cook, stirring regularly, until it is browned all over. turn the heat up and add the red wine, letting it bubble away. add the tomatoes, sugar, milk, basil sprigs (leave these whole as you will remove them later), bay leaf and water.

bring the mix up to a boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer until the sauce is thick, the meat tender and little bits of oil glisten on the top. this will take at least an hour and it is better if you can leave it for two – just keep stirring and add extra liquid if it is needed. when the ragu is ready, remove the herbs, add the chopped basil and season to taste.

put a thin layer of ragu in the bottom of your lasagne dish. top this with lasagne sheets and continue until you have used all the mixture, finishing with a layer of lasagne. mix the crème fraiche, parmesan and basil together and use this as the final layer then sprinkle over with the cheddar.

bake at 200c for c45 minutes, until the crème fraiche is bubbling and the cheese has turned a golden brown. serve with ciabatta/garlic bread and a green salad.

if you have leftovers, this reheats well. it also freezes well. the ragu is delicious served with spaghetti.

* the sugar brings out the tomato flavour and means you don’t need to bother with tomato puree

** the addition of milk helps ensure your meat is really tender. if you’ve not tried it before, give it a go and see what happens! semi-skimmed or full-fat is best.

*** you could make a béchamel sauce if you prefer but i like the slightly tangy flavour that crème fraiche adds. it also saves a bit of time and washing up!

other lasagne recipes:

fridgebottom lasagne (june 2007)

roasted vegetable lasagne (september 2006)