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.
...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
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 )
1 litre / 4 cups milk
Handful of flat leaf parsley
Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1/3 onion, peeled and sliced
6 black peppercorns
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.
- Heat some olive oil and brown the mince in batches and set aside.
- In the same pan, add an extra spash of olive oil and fry the garlic over low heat until lightly browned.
- Add rosemary, bay leaves and tomatoes, and cook gently with lid on for about 30 minutes.
- 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.
- Remove the rosemary and bay leaves and put aside.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Take off the heat and stir in the grated parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Butter a large baking dish.
- Cover the bottom of the dish with your pasta sheet, letting them hang over the edges.
- 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).
- Repeat until you run out of meat ragu - but make sure you have enough white sauce left to cover the top.
- 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.
- 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.