11 July 2011

lasagne - almost like Jamie's

I know this is not a plate of lasagne.  Its walnut tart silly!  To be exact - a walnut tart from Floriditas Cafe and Restaurant in Wellington.  I'm not a nut tart kinda gal.  But I wanted to share this photo with you 'cos this is likely to be the best dessert tart I've had in a long time.  That, and I'm on a bit of a walnut roll and obsession.

Now here's that lasagne - based on a Jamie Oliver recipe and tweaked a little by moi.

Jamie Oliver's recipe uses leftover roast meat, but seeing that I didn't make a roast, I used a mix of minced lamb and beef.  The few other times that I've made lasagne, I've only just used a meat sauce.   This recipe calls for two sauces: the usual meat sauce (ragù)  and...

...a béchamel sauce.

My experience in making white sauces is sorely lacking - I've only ever made the most basic of white sauces with just flour, butter and milk.  I've not made white sauce in this way before - the milk delicately infused with the flavours of the onion, flat leaf parsley, peppercorns and nutmeg.  So simple and yet so effective!  I wanted to know more about the different types of white sauces, so I had a poke around the internet.  From what I've read, there seems to be 3 basic types - one that's flavoured with just nutmeg, one that has added peppercorns and bay leaves, and one that uses the classic mirepoix flavours of onion, carrot and celery.  It's definitely a sauce that I'll be making (and experimenting with) again, especially with seafood.

There was discussion on whether we'd buy or make the lasagne sheets.  And there was discussion on whether the store-bought stuff was any good.  Heck, there was even discussion on fresh or dried pasta sheets.  At the end, the decision was easy - we'd run out of time to make our own in time for dinner, so it was fresh store bought stuff.  It wasn't that bad really.  I secretly sighed in relief, especially when the last attempt at homemade pasta produced some very ugly and knobbly pappardelle!

The layering part of the lasagne was easy.  It was probably the first time that I made enough sauce for all the layers.  Usually, I'm left with too little sauce for the top layer.  But this recipe was spot on and it also called for the top to be spotted with some mozzarella and drizzled with olive oil.  In the past, my lasagnes have just been topped with good 'ol grated colby or tasty cheese!  I got to say, I was well pleased with how it all looked even before it went into the oven.

And I was quite excited about cutting into the layers once it was all done.

The sauce was seasoned just right and although it looked it, the béchamel sauce did not make the dish too rich.  I even liked the burnt cheese and burnt pasta at the top and edges.  This was perfect winter fare!

Lasagne - almost like Jamie's
Recipe from (tweaked slightly) Jamie Oliver - Jamie's Italy, Lasagne alla Cacciatore

Meat Ragù:
500g mince lamb
350g mince beef
Olive oil for frying and browning
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary
3 bay leaves
3 x 400g canned Italian/plum tomatoes (good quality )

White Sauce:
1 litre / 4 cups milk
Handful of flat leaf parsley
Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1/3 onion, peeled and sliced
6 black peppercorns
80g butter
65g flour
150g parmesan, grated
salt & pepper

For layering and topping:
Fresh pasta sheets, or make your own
A small knob of butter, to butter baking dish
Parmesan for grating
Mozzarella for topping
Handful of sage leaves
Extra virgin olive oil (good quality)

Preheat oven to 220C.

Meat Ragù:

  1. Heat some olive oil and brown the mince in batches and set aside.
  2. In the same pan, add an extra spash of olive oil and fry the garlic over low heat until lightly browned.
  3. Add rosemary, bay leaves and tomatoes, and cook gently with lid on for about 30 minutes.
  4. Add the browned mince to the mixture and cook further for 20 minutes without the lid - if the sauce becomes too dry, add a little hot water.
  5. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves and put aside.

White Sauce:

  1. Add the milk, parsley, nutmeg, onions and peppercorns in a pot and heat over medium-low heat and bring to boil gently.  Remove from heat and strain the milk.
  2. Just before the milk comes to boil, melt the butter in a separate pan and stir in the flour well to make a paste (roux).
  3. Add the strained milk one ladleful at a time to the roux and mix well each time.  You'll end up with a thick smooth sauce. Bring to boil and then lower the heat to simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Take off the heat and stir in the grated parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Putting together:

  1. Butter a large baking dish.
  2. Cover the bottom of the dish with your pasta sheet, letting them hang over the edges.
  3. Top with some meat ragu, and then some white sauce, followed by a sprinkling of grated parmesan. (Don't be tempted to overload and put too much each layer).
  4. Repeat until you run out of meat ragu - but make sure you have enough white sauce left to cover the top.
  5. When the final sheet of pasta goes onto the top, fold over the pasta from the edges and cover the entire top with white sauce.
  6. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, tear and scatter mozzarella over and scatter sage leaves.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and bake for 45 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and the top golden.


  1. Looks lovely. I'm a fan of vegetarian lasagne - pumpkin, kumara, eggplant, whatever's going really. And I wouldn't be without my bechamel sauce - love that oozy goodness!

  2. Mrs Cake, I also like vegetarian lasagne ;-), although not with kumara and pumpkin... I guess I would still make it Italian style, with ragu' (either soy mince, lentils of finely chopped mixed veggies), or with greens.

    One thing that pleases me about Jamie is that when I was living in the UK (before the Jamie's phenomena) lasagne had 3 layers of pasta: one in the bottom, one in the middle, and one in the top. I even worked in English kitchens where they thought me to make lasagne the English way, because the Italian way (with lots of layers of pasta, (and bechamel and parmesan added to each layer for the Emilian lasagne) was too complicated and foreign! At least Jamie is getting closer to what lasagne should be, and I hope that those horrible frozen lasagne will one disappear from English pubs', cafes' and canteens' menus!

    Shirleen, I often use the ready made dry pasta sheets, I prefer them to the fresh brought ones which are too thick for my taste. The best in the shops are the Barilla egg lasagne sheets. For fresh... it is easier to make them, with a pasta machine it doesn't take much time to roll them, the only bother for me is cooking them first in boiling water, but it is an essential step. Fresh do taste better :-).

  3. Rosa - vegetarian lasagne! I like the sound of that. We're trying to eat more veg and less meat here, so that'll give me another veg dish idea.

    Alessandra - Come stai? I didn't realise that to be authentic, lasagne had to be more than 3 layers and had to have the bechamel and parmesan. I learn new things everyday from you guys! And I agree with you - I did find the fresh ones quite thick. I've used dried lasagne sheets from De Cecco. It was a bit fussy as I needed to pre-cook the sheet by boiling them first. But they did taste good!

  4. Yummy post! I am not usually much of a lasagne person - but I have a feeling your post may have changed my mind a little :-P

    Also, that tart does look v good. I am down in Welly this weekend - and cannot wait to visit Floriditas!

  5. You know that I never tried the De Cecco Lasagne? It is a good pasta maker, but I like Lasagne from Emilia (this is why I say parmesan on every layer :-) so I tend to go for Barilla egg lasagne, which are from that area (Barilla is based in Parma) . De Cecco is good for South Italian dry pasta.

  6. Mel - If you make it to Floriditas, you musn't pass up that walnut tart! Hope the weather behaves for your visit. :)

    Stace - thanks! :)

    Alessandra - i must keep an eye out for Barilla brand at the supermarket. Will try it out if I find some.

  7. That looks like perfect comfort food, do love a good lasagne & that looks so appealing with all those lovely sauces melding together & not to forget all that wonderful melted cheese!

  8. Mairi - it's the bechamel and mozzarella that did it I think. Ooozy goodness! :)


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