I have a thing at the moment for making dishes that can be put in the middle of the table and people can help themselves. I suppose it makes for ease of cooking (no fancy plating up) but also means you are there when people are sitting around the table and with (in this case) the wine, salad and garlic bread it’s easier to just enjoy the moment. Anyway, with this weather day before preparation is best; you can stay away from the heat of the kitchen when your friends arrive. Lasagne is a best eaten the day after it is prepared. After re-heating in the oven, place in the middle of the table and let people spoon for themselves. This feeds six.
- 1 lb (450 g) green no-cook lasagne sheets (about 24 sheets)
- 14 oz (400 g) Mozzarella, diced
- 4 oz (110 g) Parmesan freshly grated
- 24 oz (700 g) minced beef
- 2 x 100g packs pancetta or six slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 fat cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 400g tins Italian chopped tomatoes
- 6 level tablespoons tomato purée
- 6 fl oz (175 ml) red wine
- whole nutmeg
- salt and freshly milled black pepper
- 1 x 15 g pack fresh basil
- 2½ pints (1.5 litres) milk
- 6 oz (175 g) butter
- 4 oz (110 g) plain flour
- 6 fl oz (175 ml) double cream
Pre heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C).
Take a casserole dish, and fry the onion until soft, about ten minutes. Stir it occasionally to prevent it burning. Add the chopped bacon and minced cloves of garlic and keep cooking for another five minutes, then put this mixture onto a plate for later.
- Turn the heat up to the highest point and add the beef and brown the lot, then put the fried onion mixture into the meat and give it a good stir. Add both tins of tomatoes, the 6 tablespoons of puree, glass of wine, quarter of grated nutmeg and seasoning. Stir the lot again and let it bubble to its simmering point.
- Tear off half the basil, add to the pot, give it another good stir and shove in the oven – centre shelf – for about 4 hours giving a good stir every so often. Make sure it doesn’t go too dry but most of the liquid should go, leaving a nice, rich concentrated sauce. When that is done tear the rest of the basil leaves and add the to pot. Stir. Allow to cool and get ready to assemble.
- While it is cooking you make the cream sauce: Butter, flour, milk and seasoning into a sauce pan and over a gentle heat whisk with a balloon whisk making sure there are no lumps. The lot should become a thick sauce. Sieve into a bowl, beat in the cream and add a quarter of grated nutmeg. You can now cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming and put aside ready to use when ready to assemble.
- Now to get it all together: Put about 1/4 of the ragu over the base of the dish, cover with a ladle full of cream sauce and some broken mozzarella. Then a single layer of lasagne sheets. Keep repeating until you end with the cream sauce on top. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top, and a little more of the nutmeg. You can now leave this until you are ready to cook the whole lot.
- Put the lot into the upper shelf of an oven, gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) for 45-50 minutes or until it’s bubbling and turning slightly golden on top. Let it stand for about ten minutes until you cut and serve.