Beef lasagne is a staple in our house and that’s because everyone loves spaghetti bolognese. It is rich and creamy and full of comfort. It’s what you crave when you need a hug, or when the weather has turned a bit cool, or you have a load of leftover bolognese sauce sitting in the fridge. Sure, you can make it as a stand-alone dish, but that rarely happens.
Spaghetti bolognese is an absolute favourite and, for that reason, rules when it comes to ways to use beef ragu. For heaven’s sake, it’s something that is requested as a birthday dinner (???), which is fine by me, because with very little effort, and a few hours on the stove, a few basic ingredients magically turn into a rich and delicious sauce. What’s not to love.
But let’s not forget its cousin. In my opinion, lasagne beats spaghetti bolognese by a mile. Same meat base but accompanied by a luscious white sauce and layers of pasta, it’s a winner for me every time. My love for this Italian classic goes back to my grandmother’s kitchen. She was your typical British immigrant of the 1940s, pure meat and three veg, not an ounce of Italian in her (that I know of). But in the 1970s she made a mighty beef lasagne.
The thing I remember most, apart from loving it, is she used dried lasagne sheets, that she would pre-cook in an electric frying pan. If you were lucky to be there at prep time, you’d get to turn the lasagne over in the pan, then remove them to the awaiting tea towel to drain before assembling the dish. Have to say, it’s considerably easier using fresh lasagne sheets from the supermarket. (Feel free to make your own.)
For this recipe you need to make the spaghetti bolognese sauce that you’ll find here. This will make a dish of lasagne big enough to feed 6-8 people, using a 34cm x 22 cm lasagne dish. However, cooking for two, I make the bolognese sauce, have spaghetti one night, and then use the leftovers to make lasagne in a square tin (20cm x 20cm), which is big enough for another two dinners. So, let’s just think about that – 3 meals from 500 grams of mince (if there’s two of you)!!
The only other thing to say about making lasagne is, when making the white (béchamel) sauce, some say you are meant to warm the milk and then add it to the butter/flour mixture (roux). That probably makes a much better béchamel sauce… but I never do. I’m more of the throw the milk in the saucepan and whisk like mad, kind of person. It’s always worked. But if you’re a bit scared to be that slap-dash, warm the milk first before adding. And if the sauce turns out a little too thick, add a little extra milk.
This isn’t nana’s recipe, but rather homage to the first lasagne I ever ate in 1970s Australia when lamb chops, potatoes, peas and carrots were a dinner staple. Enjoy!
- 1 packet store bought fresh lasagne sheets
- 1 quantity bolognese sauce
- freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 600ml milk
- 60 grams butter
- 60 grams plain flour
- freshly grated nutmeg
- First step is to make the béchamel sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Stir until it becomes a smooth golden paste.
- Using a small whisk, pour in the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and smooth and thick.
- Bring the sauce to the boil and cook for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and grab an ovenproof rectangular dish approximately 30cm x 20cm.
- Spoon one third of the meat sauce into the dish, then cover with lasagne sheets.
- Cover the pasta with about one quarter of the béchamel sauce and cover with a layer of pasta sheets.
- Repeat until you have 3 layers of meat sauce. Cover with a layer of pasta and top with the rest of the béchamel sauce. Top with grated parmesan.
- Bake for approximately 45 minutes and the top is golden.
- Cut into squares and serve with a green salad.