There’s not a huge amount, in life, I relish more than a portion of rich, warm and delicious lasanga. Because of that, I have become extremely fussy about the lasagna I will actually eat. The meat in the lasagna MUST be a mix of beef and pork mince, the béchamel sauce MUST NOT be too runny, or too thick, and the pasta MUST be cooked to perfection. As I’m a borderline control-freak anyway, I often find that I’m best off making my own lasagna, so that I can have it just the way I like it.
Now, I must confess that although this is entitled ‘Jonesy’s Lasagna’, the recipe I use has been heavily (aka: almost entirely) inspired by my other half, D. I simply add more meat and cheese than he would normally have conceived it possible to.
So, to make this ultimate bastion of comfort food, you will need the following:
500g beef mince
500g pork mince
200g cubed pancetta
3 sticks of celery, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
1 large red onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
10 fresh plum or cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
4 bay leaves, whole
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 pack of dried pasta sheets
500ml semi-skimmed milk
50g cubed butter
30g grated parmesan
Salt & pepper
1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large, flat pan over a medium heat and add in the celery, carrots, onion, bay leaves and garlic and allow to sweat for around 5mins, stirring occasionally. Do not let them brown however so keep a close eye on them.
2. Once they have sweat through, add in the pancetta and continue to stir and sweat in the pan for another 2-3mins.
3. Add in the pork and beef mince whilst increasing the heat slightly in order to brown the meat. Break the meat down with the wooden spoon, add a generous grinding of black pepper
and stir thoroughly through the rest of the ingredients in the pan.
4. When the meat had browned and been cooking for about 5mins, add in the fresh tomatoes and the purée and stir thoroughly.
5. Add in the balsamic vinegar, cover the pan with a lid, and leave to simmer gently for approximately 15mins, stirring occasionally.
6. Whilst the meat sauce is simmering, heat a medium sized saucepan (ideally non-stick) on another medium heat hob. When the pan is warmed up, add in the butter and melt down carefully into a liquid. Again, you don’t want this to brown so make sure the hob is not too hot and keep swirling it round the pan as it melts. When the butter is fully liquid form start sprinkling in the flour and stir, with a whisk, until the butter absorbs the flour and you get what resembles dry breadcrumbs in the pan.
7. At this point, slowly start pouring in the milk whilst whisking briskly to avoid lumps forming. Initially of course it will form lumps, but as long as you continue to whisk (with vigour) then they will disappear as the mixture turns to more liquid form. It will take a few minutes, once you have added all the milk, for it to start to thicken, but it’s important that you don’t neglect it as this stage as otherwise it’ll all burn on the bottom of your pan. Keep whisking/stirring as it thickens and add in salt and pepper to season it. The sauce is ready when it reaches the same consistency as emulsion paint, so is still easy to pour, but not too thin/runny. Remove from the heat, add in half the parmesan and stir thoroughly.
8. Grease a large, deep, flat-bottomed oven dish with a bit of butter and then lay down a single layer of dried pasta sheets. Remove the bay leaves from the meat sauce and then ladle a thin layer of the meat sauce on top of the pasta sheets. Follow this by pouring a thin layer of béchamel sauce on top of the meat sauce.
9. Repeat this process, pasta, then meat, then béchamel, until you have either used up all your sauce, or you’ve reached the top of your dish. You need your top layer to be white sauce, so stop when you reach that point. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the top of the white sauce (to create a nice cheesy, crusty layer) and it’s ready for the oven.
10. Put the dish into the oven and cook through for 40mins. After that time, remove from the oven and let it rest/cool slightly on the side before serving. This lasagna will generously feed 6, or 2 with plenty of leftovers for lunch and dinner the following day. Serve with salad or fresh vegetables, as believe me, you’ll need them!