What do you call a cow with no legs?

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Ground Beef!

A lasagna recipe influenced by the mother of one of my longest and best friends…

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Ingredients:

Meat sauce:

  • 1 lb ground beef (preferably sirloin)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 glass red wine
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1/2 bunch basil

Béchamel:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 pt milk
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 vegetable stock cube

Other necessities:

  • Lasagna sheets
  • Fresh mozzarella and parmesan to top

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Directions:

Start by flouring the beef, then heat some oil in a large saucepan and add half the meat when the pan is smoking hot. When the meat has browned (and hopefully some of the bottom of the pan has too) remove and sear the second batch. This is done in stages so the meat is properly seared. I’m sure there’s a surface area comment to make but I can’t bothered to try and make something up. Once this is done, remove and keep the beef aside so that you can deglaze the pan with a glass of red wine (for deglazing see earlier spaghetti bolognese recipe).Pour the syrupy wine over the reserved beef and then add the onions and garlic to the pan. Sweat for 10-15 minutes, add back the beef and wine reduction, add the tomato, stock and basil and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

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In the meantime prepare the béchamel by melting the butter in a pan and adding the flour to make a roux. Cook the butter and flour, keeping it constantly moving to avoid burning, for a few minutes and then begin to add the milk slowly. Whisk until smooth and add the nutmeg, mustard and stock. Cook for a further few minutes, making sure that there is no lingering taste of flour. (This should have disappeared by cooking the roux for a few minutes at the beginning but if the floury taste still remains simmer the sauce for a while). Keep warm until the meat sauce is ready.

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Once both sauces are good to go it is time to prepare the lasagna. Grease a casserole, put a third of the meat sauce in the bottom, top with a layer of uncooked lasagna (making sure not to overlap any of the pasta). Repeat this process another two times and then pour the béchamel over the top layer of pasta.

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Bake in a 400F preheated oven for 20 minutes and then add the mozzarella and parmesan and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes. The mozzarella will give the lasagna a rich creamy layer on top of the pasta and the parmesan will add a tiny bit of a crunchy, grainy texture on top of that. If it ever looks like it’s browning too much and the pasta isn’t cooked yet just cover it in foil.

 

When the time is up and the lasagna is crusty in all the right places then remove from the oven, let sit for 5 or 10 minutes and then divide up onto plates. The first is always the hardest, so don’t be too disheartened if it falls apart on you, the others will be fine. You can always have that piece, or you can give it to someone that you don’t like. But you would have to then ask yourself the question of why you are cooking lasagna for someone that you don’t like???

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Reflections:

Lasagna is food gestalt at its best; the finished product is so much greater than the sum of its parts. The meat sauce could have easily been a bolognese, the béchamel could have cheesily been a macaroni sauce with the mozzarella and parmesan, and the lasagna sheets could have been something I’m sure. However, when you combine them and have nearly two hours to do it… it’s so much more satisfying than any of those things could have ever been.

Oh, and if you have any left over? Keep it for the next day or freeze it… the flavors only get better with age.

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