Saturday 3 November 2007

Lasagne Bolognese

I made my first ever Lasagne only a few months ago, and it was a great success with those who tasted it, although improvements could be made. For one, I think there was too much pasta in the last one. I had some dried Lasagne in the cupboard this time, so decided to give that a try, even though the Lasagne recipe in The Silver Spoon places it firmly in the Fresh Pasta section. The stuff I had claimed that it did not need any pre-preparation, however, this was not the case, and the top layer which was made with this stuff just didn't work properly at all, which was a shame, because the Bechamel topped with a generous amount of Parmesan on the top tasted great. Just slightly spoilt by the hard pieces of pasta underneath.

When talking with friends about making Lasagne over the last week, it seems that everyone has their way of doing it, but you can divide most of them into two camps: those who pre-cook the pasta, then put a layer on the bottom of the dish, and those who don't pre-cook the pasta, and put a layer of Ragu on the bottom. After the way mine went today, I'm definitely going to stick with using Fresh Pasta, slightly pre-cooked and with a layer at the bottom of the dish.

The Ragu was my pretty much standard recipe, i.e. St Paddy's Bolognese but without the Guinness, although the Silver Spoon suggests uses Passata rather than Chopped Tomatoes. I did this last time, but I forgot to get some in this time, so the Chopped Tomatoes had to do. The length of time I cook the Ragu, I doubt it makes much of a difference.

Recipe for the Ragu Alla Bolognese

  • 400g Lean Minced Beef
  • 200g Pancetta, cubed (Smoked bacon, normal or streaky, can also be used as long as it's cut into small pieces)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ large onions, chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery finely diced
  • 3 carrots finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 glass of Red Wine
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 x 400g can of Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Concentrated Tomato Puree
  • 1 teaspoon Fish Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • ½ teaspoon Hot Chili Powder
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Freshly ground Black Pepper (to taste)
The directions for cooking this are exactly the same as the St Paddy's Bolognese. Like usual, I gave it a good 2 hours of simmering, only because I had to go and get some Milk for the Bechamel Sauce, I did this in my great new combination oven. I also added a little additional Beef Stock so that it wouldn't dry out too much while I was out.

Recipe for the Bechamel Sauce

  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Plain Flour
  • 1.5 Pints of Milk
  • Half an Onion
  • 6 Black Peppercorns
  • Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

First simmer the milk for about 20 minutes with the Onion, Peppercorns and Nutmeg, then strain it through a sieve to remove the bits. Next melt the butter in a pan, add the floor and cook briefly before gradually adding the milk, stirring all the time. Using a whisk later on helps keep the lumps out, but you shouldn't stop stirring until the floor is properly cooked. Add a little Salt and Pepper to taste.

Now, in a greased roasting dish, arrange a layer of Pasta on the bottom of the dish, then spread over a layer of Ragu, more Pasta, layer of Bechamel Sauce with a little Fresh Mozzarella if you wish, then Pasta, Ragu, etc. Keep layering until all the ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of Bechamel Sauce on the top. Next add a good covering of Parmesan Cheese and a little Freshly Ground Black Pepper.

The Lasagne should then be cooked in a pre-heated oven at about 200 degree Celsius for about 30-40 minutes. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.


kellypea said...

I love lasagne and this particular recipe looks very good. The fish sauce is an interesting ingredient that I haven't seen much outside Asian cooking. What size can of tomatoes?

... Mark Mitchenall said...

Thanks for the kind words! The can size is 400g (14oz) or equivalent amount of Passata

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