STEPS 10, INGREDIENTS 13, TIME 90 MINS
My Italian wife Laura (pronounced ‘l-ow!-ra’) taught me this super-simple meat lasagna recipe. So a big well done to her for turning a previously kitchen-phobic guy – me – into someone who can produce such a filling treat time and time again.
Although this meat lasagna recipe takes some time to work through – as is the case with all real lasagnas – the key part of its preparation is luckily the most interesting… and that’s the step-by-step ‘layering’ process. I love this bit!
It’s all in there: sumptuous tomato sauce, protein-packed beef, handfuls of moist and moreish mozzarella… I can’t help but eat it as I make it.
Mmmm… enough, I’m making myself hungry! Let’s get on with it…
Ingredients: (For a printable ‘meat lasagna recipe shopping list’ click here, or right-click and choose ‘Save target/link as’ to save it for later.)
For the sauce
300g/10-11oz of minced/ground beef
(Halve this amount to 150g if you like and add a second 150g of minced pork)
4 x 395g/14oz tins of plum tomatoes
20 fresh, washed basil leaves
1 glass of full-bodied red wine
1 medium-sized onion (red or white)
1 stick of washed celery
1 medium-sized carrot
Tomato paste/purée (not essential)
Salt & pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
For the rest
15-20 long sheets of packet lasagna (roughly one 500g/17.5oz packet).
Choose any type of lasagna – plain, green spinach etc. – but don’t mix types as they cook at different speeds!
2 balls of real mozzarella cheese (not ‘buffalo’ mozzarella, it’s too soft for cooking)
65g/2-3oz parmesan cheese
1 x 250g/8.8oz tub of Italian ricotta (Laura prefers the Santa Lucia brand)
Big deep pan/skillet with lid
Food mixer/blender (not essential, but I recommend this handheld mixer )
Large deep oven dish (I use the 30cm oval below) or lasagna pan (this Cuisinart is a great buy)
Preparation (including sauce): 70 mins
Cooking: around 20 mins
Step 1 – Peel the onion and carrot and chop off their ends. Roughly chop them – and the celery – and blend them all in a food mixer for just a few seconds. You don’t want paste, just a rough mixture.
(If you don’t have a mixer, chop them finely.)
Step 2 – Put a large glug of olive oil in your pan (to cover half the bottom), along with two generously heaped tablespoons of the veg mixture.
Put on a medium heat and occasionally stir for 3 or 4 minutes (until the veg is soft and beginning to brown).
NOTE: This veg mixture is a staple part of many Italian tomato sauces.
Step 3 – Pour in the wine and leave it all on the heat for 2 minutes. This will evaporate some of the alcohol away, leaving the grape’s sweetness for the sauce.
Step 4 – Throw in the most important ingredient of this whole meat lasagna recipe – the mince meat.
Break it up with a spoon, and when it’s lost its redness (2 mins) add the tomatoes, two teaspoons of the paste/purée, and salt and pepper (a pinch or two of pepper, and one pinch of salt for each tomato). Mix thoroughly.
Step 5 – Cover the pan and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure the sauce is bubbling but not going mad. (This stage is all about softening the tomatoes.)
TIP: Taste the sauce. Delicious, right? If it tastes a bit sour (at any point), stick in half a teaspoon of sugar. Its sweetness balances the acidity of the toms.
Step 6 – Dive into the sauce with a spoon (wooden is best) to squash the tomatoes. Then take off the lid and leave it all actively bubbling away.
Set your watch or timer for 40 minutes and don’t forget to stir it every now and then.
NOTE: A real Italian cook might do the sauce ‘Goodfellas style’ here, cranking down the heat and stirring it for 2-3 hours! It tastes great either way however… so unless you’re really bored don’t bother.
Step 7 – Leave the sauce bubbling away and we’ll prepare our other ingredients…
– Chop the mozzarella into small chunks (1cm cubes)
– Open the (optional) ricotta cheese
– Grate the parmesan
– Wash & roughly tear up the basil leaves
TIP: Don’t chop basil. Horizontal ‘tearing’ is best, as it doesn’t turn the leaves into mush like downward chopping does.
Step 8 – Give the sauce a stir. You want it to turn creamy, and most (not all) of the excess liquid to disappear. If you have ricotta, throw in most of your tub and stir/melt it in.
When your sauce’s consistency is like that below – probably after 45 mins or so – take it off the heat.
Step 9 – Turn on the oven to preheat it to 180C.
Now the best part of this entire meat lasagna recipe – filling that dish!
– Paste a little sauce into the bottom of your oven dish. (Don’t completely cover it – just ‘dirty’ it.)
– Cover this with a single layer of lasagna sheets. (If your dish is round, break some sheets into small bits to fill the sides, but don’t worry… the layers don’t need to be airtight!)
– Cover these sheets with another thicker layer of sauce
– Throw on a little parmesan, and evenly distribute mozzarella chunks and a few basil bits. (If you have ricotta left, drop some on each layer too.)
– Repeat and repeat until you’ve almost filled the dish.
Now, this is the most important part of this entire meat lasagna recipe (in fact it applies to any lasagna really)…
… your final layer of lasagna sheets should only be covered by the last of the sauce and parmesan. No mozzarella or basil – it might burn in the oven!
Step 10 – Put the dish in the oven and cook for roughly 20 minutes – see the lasagna packet. Your lasagna is cooked when you can stick in a cocktail stick/toothpick and pull it out without much resistance.
Done! How about that for a simple meat lasagna recipe? Do let me know how you got on.
Serve with: For Italians lasagna is ‘il pasto’ – the meal – so why complicate matters? Just add a glass of well-rounded red wine (this bottle is my very favorite Italian red), sit back, and enjoy the fruits of your labour!