Italian mothers love boys who enjoy their food and Mum wanted to test Matt (my now husband) when first inviting him to dine at our house.
Matt tucked into the plate of antipasti of olives, meat, cheese, seafood and bread. “Are you ready for Lasagne now, Matt?”, Mum asked. He was delighted and finished off his plate. “Some more?” she asked. “Of course, it’s delicious.” Mum beamed and I knew her heart had softened towards this young man I had bought home. Content with his achievement and with a full stomach, he pushed his chair away from the table. With a warm glow, he patted his tummy, smiling.
Mum sprung up from the table with delight and declared “Now for i secondi piatti of steak, sauteed potatoes and salad?” Matt’s face ashened and I ask if he wanted “One more wafer-thin mint?”
This is my Mum’s recipe for her Lasagne and it’s fool-proof!
55g (2oz) butter or 2 tbsp olive oil * 55g (2oz) pancetta, diced * 1 small onion, finely chopped * 1 garlic clove, finely chopped * 2 small carrots, finely diced * 2 celery sticks, finely diced * 340g (12oz) beef mince * 1 tbsp tomato puree * 125ml (4floz) red wine * 395g (14oz) passata * 85ml (3oz) beef or chicken stock * ½tsp oregano * salt & pepper
Heat the butter or oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the pancetta and fry. Add the onion and garlic, frying until the onion is translucent. Add in the carrots and celery then fry for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the beef and fry, stirring frequently breaking the mince into smaller chunks. Stir in the tomato puree for a minute or two then add the red wine. Let the wine bubble for a few minutes to let the alcohol evaporate a little. Mix in the passata and stock. Add the oregano and a little salt and pepper to taste. Leave to simmer on a low heat for 1 hour, until it becomes a smooth, thickened sauce. You will need to add in a little more water as it simmers, so keep going back to it to check every now and again.
Rest of the Lasagne Ingredients
225g (8oz) dried no-precook lasagne * 225g (8oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for sprinkling
Béchamel cheese sauce: 285ml (½pint) milk * 2 bay leaves * 3 cloves * 1 small onion * 55g (2oz) butter * 30g (1oz) plain flour * 285ml (½pint) single cream * salt & pepper * 140g (5oz) grated cheese such as Cheddar
Pre-heat the oven to 190oC/375oF/Gas Mark 5. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the bay leaves. Press the cloves into the onion, add to the saucepan and bring the milk to the boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to cool. Strain the milk into a jug and rinse the saucepan. Melt the butter in the saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Remove from the heat and gradually pour in the milk, stirring constantly. Cook the sauce for 3 minutes, stirring, then pour in the cream and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese until it has melted.
In a large, rectangular ovenproof dish, add in a ladleful of Bolognese sauce to the bottom and spread out. Add alternative layers of lasagne, béchamel cheese sauce and Parmesan. About 3 layers of lasagne is sufficient. Ensure that the last layer is cheese sauce, and sprinkle over some Parmesan. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
You could serve immediately. However, if you have time, cover the lasagne with foil, turn off the oven and leave it in for 45 minutes. This will create a lasagne that will be easy to slice and stacks on a plate.
I have collated all my favourite recipes into one book FOOD FOR ALL OCCASIONS.
There are more recipes in the section THE ITALIAN JOB, a selection of authentic Italian recipes.