My first attempt at lasagne many years ago was a tragic failure. For some reason I thought that store bought pasta sheets would cook in the oven once covered with sauce. I made my sauces, layered that baby up and eagerly waited for the cheese to start bubbling over so I could overdose on crunchy edged goodness. As I discovered, the lasagne sheets I picked up weren’t of the instant variety so my eagerly anticipated lasagne came out crunchy, and not in the crispy edge baked cheese kind. Just raw. Straight into the bin went not only the lasagne, but my ambition to master it.
A few months ago however I made these cute little lasagne cups. And this time I bought the instant sheets. I have now been enjoying homemade lasagne quite frequently, it has become a regular on my menu. This recipe is not in any way authentic, classic or even Italian. I wouldn’t make such a claim given I’ve just thrown a few ingredients in with no regard for the history of lasagne. It is however simple, delicious, and even the kids love it. I served it up for dinner one night when my nephew was visiting and I have to say I did get an inflated head when he kept telling me how good it was. He went in for seconds, confirmation that this lasagne is a kid-friendly winner. Oh and, if your child is anything like mine and will pick out vegetables he doesn’t like, for some reason the vegetables don’t wind up on the edge of the plate with this one. Well disguised or just too delicious to bother with.
Ingredients // makes 2L casserole dish
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
A good handful of fresh thyme leaves
500g beef mince
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
Sea salt and black pepper
Small bunch of fresh basil
Lasagne sheets – I use instant so no need to cook beforehand
Grated Mozzarella for topping
200ml creme fraiche
1/2 cup ricotta (or cream – I use either)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 lemon, juiced
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, carrot, celery and thyme and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until softened. Stir occasionally.
Add mince and brown for a few minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and 1 cup water. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes stirring every so often. Remove lid and cook for a further 20 minutes until nice and thick and sauce has reduced. Remove from heat and add torn basil leaves.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Combine all cheese sauce ingredients well in a bowl.
Ladle about 1/3 of the meat sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Place a layer of lasagne sheets on top, then another layer of meat sauce and top with cheese sauce. Then another layer of pasta, top with the last of the meat sauce and end with cheese sauce. Top with grated mozzarella.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until the pasta edges are fight-over-crisp and the sauce and cheese is deliciously bubbling. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving with a delightful fresh salad. I think it’s fair that the cook gets all the crispy edges, kids aren’t really fussed with that anyway…