Now that we’re experiencing a cooler change in the weather, I’m starting to crave more comfort foods. One of my ultimate comfort foods is lasagne – I mean, what’s not to love about a rich and saucy mince layered between pasta sheets and that creamy, cheesy bechamel? I’ve tried out a few lasagne recipes over the years, but this Neil Perry one is definitely my favourite.
When I’m not gorging on the whole lasagne myself (spread out over a few nights…. of course), this is my go-to dish when I have guests over. It’s easy to make, and most of it can be prepared in advance which means there’s no freaking out in the kitchen in the 30 minutes before people arrive, because your lasagne is just sitting in the oven cooking. While the recipe looks lengthy, it is actually quite a simple dish to make if you break it down into its components.
I like to serve the lasagne with a simple rocket salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic, and a glass of red wine. So far it’s been a crowd pleaser – and it makes so much that there’s always leftovers for the next day, which taste even better :)
adapted from this Neil Perry recipe
9 instant lasagne sheets (I use a 250g pack of instant lasagne sheets)
For the meat sauce:
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500g pork & veal mince
2 tsp plain flour
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a pinch of caster sugar
700ml tomato passata
400g canned diced tomatoes
2 large handfuls basil leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
For the béchamel sauce:
50g unsalted butter
3 tbsp plain flour
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
grated mozzarella cheese
1. To make the meat sauce, heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion has softened and the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the meat. Cook, breaking up the chunks of meat with a wooden spoon, for 4 minutes or until it loses its raw colour. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has almost evaporated. Add the sugar, passata and tomatoes and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly. Add salt and pepper, stir in the basil and set the meat sauce aside. You can make this up to two days in advance (cover and refrigerate until needed).
2. To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until it pulls away from the sides of the saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk all at once, whisking constantly, to avoid any lumps. Return the pan to the heat and whisk continuously, until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat, add a pinch of nutmeg and season.
3. Preheat the oven to 190°C. If you have made the meat sauce ahead of time, reheat it on the stovetop until warm. Assemble the lasagne by layering the meat sauce, bechamel and pasta sheets in a 29cm x 23cm x 7cm dish, starting with a third of the meat sauce on the bottom. Place lasagne sheets over the top, then add another layer of meat sauce, and spread a third of the bechamel over that. Continue layering the lasagne sheets, meat sauce and bechamel until you have 3 layers of lasagne sheets. On top of the final layer, spread the remaining bechamel sauce of the top, and sprinkle with grated mozzarella and grated parmesan. Cook the lasagne for 30-45 minutes or until the cheese is brown and the sauce is bubbling. Let the lasagne stand for 10 minutes before serving. If making this ahead of time, you can pre-cook the lasagne and reheat it when your guests arrive. Serves 6.