An ‘everyday’ lasagne that has beautifully balanced layers of rich Bolognese ragu, silky pasta, a luscious cheese sauce AND it doesn’t take hours to make.
I have made many lasagnes over the years, but have held off posting until l got hold of the most divine lasagne recipe which comes from a nonna (my cousin’s mother-in-law). Like many nonnas, she regularly makes HUGE trays of lasagne for her family and once l tasted it, l had to find out how she makes her version.
About this Lasagne
Here’s what you need to now about this lasagne recipe.
- It’s a family style recipe, hence the cooking time is much shorter. A more traditional lasagne takes 3 -4 hours to make, and may include ingredients such as milk, pancetta and a combination of pork and beef. Delicious, yes, but very time consuming.
- It works best with fresh lasagne sheets. I find that Rana Egg Lasagne sheets are the next best thing after making your own dough from scratch. You can certainly buy dried sheets, but be aware they can buckle during cooking and if not well covered with cheese sauce, the edges of the top layer can also dry out.
- The layers are evenly balanced with the perfect amount of ragu, so you can enjoy the textures and flavours of the pasta and cheese sauce. That’s what l love the most about this recipe!
I have tweaked nonna’s recipe just a little to add more richness. I’m sure she won’t mind.
Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 25 mins
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic, grated/minced
- 1 celery stick, finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 650 g/1.5 lb minced beef
- 200 ml/7 fl oz red wine
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 2 beef stock cubes
- 1 tsp sugar (note 1)
- salt & pepper to taste
Besciamella (Cheese Sauce)
- 70 g/2.5 oz plain/all purpose flour
- 70 g/2.5 oz unsalted butter
- 4 cups warm milk
- 60 g/2 oz parmesan cheese, grated plus extra 60 g/2oz for sprinkling
- 1 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 6 fresh lasagne sheets (250 g/9 oz) or 375 g/ 13 oz dried (note 2)
- chopped parsley for garnish
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, diced carrot, celery and a pinch of salt. Saute for 8 – 10 minutes or until vegetables have softened.
- Turn heat up and add the minced beef. Saute until well browned, breaking up large clumps with a wooden spoon (about 5 mins).
- Add the red wine and allow to evaporate.
- Stir through the tomato paste. Saute until the rawness of the tomato paste has cooked through (2 mins). Notice how the tomato paste changes colour to a deeper red.
- Dissolve stock cubes in 1 cup water.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, stock/broth, and sugar. Stir.
- Place lid on pot and simmer (gently bubbling) for 45 min.
- The ragu will have thickened during cooking. Adjust salt, pepper and sugar to taste.
Beciamella (Cheese Sauce)
- Melt butter in a medium sized pot over moderate low heat.
- Add the flour and stir continuously until you have a sandy coloured paste (1 min).
- Add 1 cup of milk and stir vigorously to prevent any lumps from forming.
- Turn the heat up to moderate and add the remainder of the milk while stirring continuously. Make sure you stir to the edges of the saucepan and across the base to prevent the sauce from sticking.
- Continue stirring until the sauce thickens. It should coat the back of a wooden spoon (6 -8 mins).
- Remove from stove. Add the parmesan, salt and pepper. Stir.
- Have a taste and adjust seasoning if needed (note 3).
- Spoon about 1/2 cup of ragu on the base of the baking dish. My dish measures 32 cm x 20 cm/12.5″ x 8″.
- Place lasagne sheets over ragu. You may need to cut your sheets to fit (note 4) . Spread 1/3 of ragu over the sheets (note 5). Repeat 2 more times. You will finish with a layer of lasagne sheets.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the lasagne sheets.
- Sprinkle with extra parmesan cheese.
- Place in oven and bake for 45 mins or until top is a deep golden colour.
- Remove from oven. Allow to stand for 15 – 20 mins before slicing. Garnish with chopped parsley.
- Canned tomatoes can be a little tart. I usually add a teaspoon or two of sugar to balance the sourness.
- I have recently been buying Rana Egg Lasagne Sheets from my supermarket. I’ve found them to be thin and silky after baking – just like lasagne sheets should be. The amount of dried or fresh lasagne sheets you buy will depend on the brand. Rana has exactly 6 sheets in the package. Some dried sheets require pre-cooking, so make sure you read the instructions carefully.
- If you make the cheese sauce ahead of time, cover the surface with cling wrap. This will prevent a thick skin from forming.
- My baking dish is slightly wider than the lasagne sheets – it’s not always a perfect fit. The lasagne still turned out beautifully.
- The ragu shouldn’t be watery nor too thick. The pasta sheets, especially dried, need moisture to rehydrate.
- Freezing: To freeze lasagne, cover well with several layers of cling wrap or aluminium foil. For cooked lasagne, consider cutting into portions and placing in zip lock bags. Lasagne freezes well for up to 4 weeks.