As an Italian, you always know your Nonna’s food to be the best. There are no arguments, nothing can contest it, it just is what it is…and essentially if you disagree then get yourself ready for a beating with the wooden spoon or a little prick with a needle Nonna has lying around. Well, my Nonna Netta’s lasagne is the best…but…..I am going against tradition and risking it all by putting my own lasagne recipe out to the world. Now, before you come at me with your wooden spoons and needles, give it a go and then we can [maybe] talk.
Some background on this recipe:
The Bolognese – this recipe takes elements from my cousin’s recipe from the Veneto region. So you will see Prosecco is used rather than red wine and different herbs are used including Star Anise – this can be quite overpowering, so feel free to either take it out half way through the cooking process, or remove it completely, but trust me, it’s worth keeping it in there. Also, you need to have patience with the sauce – this can’t just cook in 30 minutes, it needs a good 2.5-3 hours to infuse the flavours, for the meat to melt and to simply become delicious. I find prepping this the day before also allows all the flavours to just take that extra step and also breaks up the process a little. Just try not to eat it all at once.
The “Pasta” Sheets – ok so for this recipe I created a gluten free version as my cousin was coming to be my guinea pig and photographer and as he can’t have gluten, I had to adapt. Rather than attempting to make pasta sheets with GF flour, we went for an easier method and made crepes and honestly, you wouldn’t know the difference. I would say that you may need more than 7 – I made 2 batches and just had the leftovers for dessert. Obviously, you can use normal pasta sheets here if you don’t need to cater for the gluten free crowd!
The Béchamel – If you find that this gets lumpy, the best way to save it is to pass it through a sieve! Just make sure you cook the roux for a few minutes to get rid of the flour taste before adding the milk.
I have split the recipe into the different stages and added the assembly information at the end. The bolognese and pasta sheets can be made in advance, but I would advise making the béchamel when you’re ready to assemble. You also don’t need to cook the lasagne straight away, so feel free to prep everything a day before and just stick it in the oven when you’re getting ready to eat.
Now, as I said my cousin was my guinea pig, and he can confirm that this recipe is actually BETTER than my Nonna’s….I know….I don’t know how I did it either, but they are his words, not mine. Obviously, I’m not allowed to tell Nonna as neither of us want to be disowned. But, try it for yourself and let me know!
Serves: 8 (maybe less if you want bigger portions….)
Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 3 hours 30 mins Total time: 3 hours 45 mins
Ingredients 500g Beef mince 20% fat 500g Pork mince 20% fat 170g Carrots 2 Celery stalks 1 Large White onion 3 Slices Smoked pancetta, thinly sliced 2 x 400ml Chopped tomatoes 400ml Passata 1 Stalk Rosemary 1-2 Small Sprigs thyme 1 x Bay leaf 1 x Star anise 1 x Garlic clove, chopped 200ml Prosecco Salt Pepper Olive oil Optional – 1 tsp sugar
Chop carrots, celery and onion into small cubes and add to a large saucepan with olive oil. Cook on mid-low heat for 15 minutes until soft.
After 5 minutes add garlic, stir and careful not to burn it.
After 10 minutes add pancetta and stir into the vegetables.
Once soft, add beef/pork mince, season with salt and pepper and break up the meat using the back of a wooden spoon. This will help all the meat to brown evenly. Stir frequently until all the meat is brown.
Turn up the heat, add the prosecco and stir until all the liquid has cooked off.
Once the liquid has evaporated, add chopped tomatoes, passata, herbs and star anise.
Stir and reduce the gas to low, cover and leave to cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
If you find that the chopped tomatoes and passata are a bit bitter, you can add a teaspoon of sugar to balance it out – but I would let it cook for at least an hour before you try and decide.
Gluten Free “Lasagne” Sheets
Makes 6-7 Pancakes
Prep time: 5 mins Cook time: 20 mins Total time: 25 mins
Ingredients 200g Gluten free plain flour 2 x Eggs 250ml Semi skimmed milk Salt Vegetable oil
Combine flour, egg, milk & a pinch of salt. Whisk well and if the mixture is too thick, add more milk until it is smooth.
Heat a little vegetable oil in small frying pan – you only want it to coat the pan, pour any excess into a bowl.
Make sure the pan is nice and hot and then reduce the heat so it doesn’t burn.
Pour a small ladle of the pancake mix into the pan and swirl to coat so you get a thin crepe.
Cook for 1-2 minutes and using a rubber spatula, loosen the pancake around the edges. Flip and cook the other side for another minute.
Repeat until the mixture is done.
Gluten Free Béchamel
Prep time: 5 mins Cook time: 15 mins Total time: 20 mins
Ingredients 3 Tbsp Salted butter 100g Gluten free flour 750ml Semi skimmed milk 1 Tsp Nutmeg 1 Bay leaf Salt Pepper
Melt the butter saucepan on a low heat, add the flour and stir to combine, leave to cook for 2-3 minutes before slowly adding in the milk. Whisk continuously for around 15 minutes.
Once the mix is well combined, add in the bay leaf so it infuses. As the sauce thickens, add a pinch of salt, pepper and the nutmeg. After 15 minutes you should get a nice creamy, smooth sauce. Turn off the heat and don’t let the mix boil.
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins
Total time: 1 hour 25 mins
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180°C Fan. Start with a layer of bolognese at the bottom of a large oven dish.
Slice pancakes into rectangles to form the “pasta sheets” and layer on top of the bolognese.
Spoon on the béchamel to cover and grate in some parmesan.
Repeat the layers until the dish is full and make sure your top layer is the béchamel with a grating of parmesan. Cover with foil and put in the oven for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, remove the foil and increase the heat to full whack for a further 10-15 mins – keep an eye on it, you want to get the top nice and golden but not burnt.
Serve and enjoy!