I might be cheating a bit here with the title of this dish. This recipe has nothing to do with an Italian Mama, but rather it was the very first recipe my own Mum taught me about 12 years ago. I have memories of her cooking this at special occasions for my brother and I, for dinner parties with her friends and she even made it for a faux dinner party I once held for my thirteen year old posse (the dress code was black tie, obviously). It was a staple of my childhood and is a recipe have modified and I come back to time and time again now I’m (barely) a grown-up.
I’m not convinced how authentic this version is. For one, I’m pretty sure the Italians don’t use mature cheddar cheese and I’m sure they use the more traditional combo of carrots and celery. But this is a recipe that I’ve honed over my 12 years of cooking it, from the vegetables and herbs I use to the amount of wine and the time I simmer the ragu. The quantity of cheese sauce has slightly increased over time and I now use less tomatoes. The result is a pasta dish that not only tastes sublime but has layers of flavour thanks to the beef stock, sugar (really!), mushrooms, wine and strong cheese. I would defy anyone not to do a bit of an Italian “MMMMMmmmmmm!” and maybe even that kissy finger pinch thing when they’re eating it.
The quantity below serves 4 hungry grown-ups and is great served with a herby salad and even some (homemade) garlic bread. I often double this otherwise I’m disappointed at the lack of leftovers which taste amazing heated up for lunch the next day. This may be a little more involved and time-consuming than most of my other recipes, but it’s bloody worth it.
In my recipe I’ve used Gourmet Garden basil and garlic, which are a great way to save time when you’re cooking without compromising on taste or flavour. Chopping herbs and garlic are one of my least favourite things to do in the kitchen, so I certainly noticed the difference! I’m entering my lasagne recipe in Gourmet Garden‘s blog off/cook off competition.
- 3 teaspoons Gourmet Garden garlic
- 1 white onion
- 1 pepper (red or orange) chopped into cubes
- Half punnet chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 500g lean minced beef
- 100ml red wine
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- Half a beef stock cube
- 3 teaspoons Gourmet Garden basil
- Salt and pepper
- 50g Butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 60g Mature Cheddar Cheese
- 175ml (approx) whole milk
- 6 lasagne pasta sheets
- Dice the onion and sweat in a large pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic, cooking slowly to ensure it doesn’t burn, about 10 minutes.
- Whilst the onion is cooking chop your other veg and add to the pan. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Add your mince and break up well. Mix in with veg and stir as it cooks.
- Once it’s brown all over add the 100ml of red wine and tomato puree and stir well.
- Crumble in the half a stock cube and stir again, then add the tin of chopped tomatoes.
- Bring the pan to a slight simmer and cook with a lid off, stirring every 5 minutes. Leave to cook for about 40 minutes before moving on to the cheese sauce.
- When the ragu is nearing the end of cooking add the sugar and salt and pepper to taste. I usually add a touch more than 4 teaspoons to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Melt your butter in a small saucepan and when it’s slightly bubbling add your flour; stir well and don’t let it burn. Cook for about 30 minutes before adding a splash of milk to cook the pan down.
- Add a handful of cheese and stir well to combine, followed by about half the milk. Wait for the cheese to melt then repeat, until you have a sauce about the consistency of cake batter. You might need a little less of the milk- use your judgement – but make sure you have a small sprinkling of cheddar left over for the top of the lasagne.
- When this is done it’s time to assemble! If there’s any liquid left on the top of your ragu sauce skim it off and discard.
- Place half of the ragu in a large rectangular dish and press down so it’s nice and level.
- Add three quarters of the cheese sauce and place three lasagne sheets on top.
- Spoon the remaining ragu over the cheese sauce and place the last three sheets on top of this. Add the last of the cheese sauce to the top of the lasagne and sprinkle with cheddar.
- Cook in the oven at 180 degrees C for about 45 minutes, or until the top of the lasagne is golden brown and bubbling. Delicious!