How to make the perfect Lasagna
Preparation and cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves four people
You don’t have to be a cartoon cat or an Italian grandmother to appreciate the value of a good lasagna.
There are many fine reasons why this homely, simple dish of layered pasta, meat and sauces has become massively popular around the world, and is a reliable staple in the repertoire of many home cooks. It’s filling and delicious, and a lasagna can feed a family of four for just a couple of dollars.
It’s also a highly flexible dish - it isn’t difficult to make a tasty vegetarian version, or fire it up with a bit of chilli or your favourite condiments.
This is a simple and affordable version of the classic - think of it as a recipe which is open to your own additions and variations. Have fun!
What you'll need:
- One tablespoon of olive oil
- One diced white onion
- Two hundred and fifty grams of quality beef mince
- Three grated carrots
- Seventy five grams of plain flour
- Seventy five grams of butter
- Seven hundred and fifty ml of milk
- One teaspoon of strong mustard
- Two crushed garlic cloves
- Two 400g tins of tomatoes
- Salt and pepper
- Two hundred and fifty grams of lasagna sheets
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C.
Get a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, and stick it on a medium heat. Add the olive oil, followed by the mince and a decent amount of salt and pepper. You want to brown the mince for at least six minutes, so it begins to go a little crispy. Remove the meat and set to one side.
Chuck in the onion and carrot, and continue to fry the whole lot for about ten minutes, until the meat juices remaining in the pan have soaked into the vegetables, and they’ve softened nicely.
Meanwhile, make your bechamel (white) sauce. Add the butter to a saucepan, and melt over a gentle heat. Once melted, stir in the flour and mustard, and continue stirring well to make a thick paste.
Then, start adding the milk in small batches. Keep the sauce moving with a whisk or wooden spoon, and continue adding the milk bit by bit until you have a lovely thick sauce. Add some salt and pepper, and turn the heat down very low, and continue stirring for five minutes or so.
Return to your pan of softened carrots and onions. Add the garlic, and fry gently for two minutes. Put the mince back in the pan, and add your tomatoes, stirring the whole lot together. Put a lid on the pan, and simmer for ten minutes - it should all thicken beautifully. If you want to add any spices or herbs to the mix, now is the time to do it.
Now it is time to assemble your lasagna. Get a smallish, deep baking dish, and put about a quarter of the meat/veg/tomato mixture into it, spreading it around the bottom of the dish. Place a layer of lasagna sheets over the top of this, and then spread on some more of the meat sauce, followed by a layer of bechamel sauce.
Repeat this twice more, and finish with a layer of the white sauce on the top. Some people like to add some grated cheese on top of this, but that is up to you. You should end up with three layers of lasagna sheets, with meat and white sauce between each one.
Bake in your pre-heated oven for thirty minutes. The top should be bubbling and golden by this time. Serve hot in slices, with a side of salad.
Wine pairing for Basic Lasagna
This is a classic Italian family dish, and deserves to be served with one of the great Italian easy-drinking wines. You want a wine which is going to stand up to the browned mince and acidity of the tomatoes, while not getting in the way of the gentler flavours of the bechamel.
Thankfully, the great Italian red wines are made for this type of meal - ruby red in colour, relatively light in body, and packed full of fresh, exciting flavours that are sunny, relaxed and fun to drink. I’d pair this lasagna with a Chianti, or one of the brighter, more medium-bodied Australian Shiraz wines.
There you have it -- a must-try basic lasagna recipe!
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