As you might guess from the title this one is a big recipe for me as it takes one of my favourite dishes and elevates it to a whole new level. A level in which a simple lasagne becomes an experience that warms the soul and soothes whatever worries you may well have… sounds dramatic right? wait until you try it! Beef that melts away from the fork in a rich tomato sauce paired with enough cheese to give a cartoon mouse a migraine and a silky bechamel sauce to glue it all together.
The problem is it all sounds a little run of the mill in terms of lasagne as lets be fair, that’s what they all have going for them and it is the reason everybody tends to love it. The thing that differentiates this lasagne from any old chucked together pasta dish is the ragu… a 12 hour labour of love that makes all the difference!
What you’ll need:
- 1kg beef brisket/ roasting joint
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 jar of red pesto
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 4 smoked streaky bacon rashers, diced
- Large handful of basil, roughly chopped or torn
- 2 mozzarella balls, diced
- 100g grated red Leicester
- 100g grated strong cheddar
- 16 lasagne sheets (I use wholemeal but not essential!)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
and for the white sauce:
- 25g butter
- 30g tbsp plain flour
- 1 pint milk
- Salt and pepper
- First of all prep the beef by removing any string or packaging and preheating your slow cooker on low. (You can use your oven on a low equivalent temperature but a slow cooker uses less energy and is so much easier to monitor)
- Put the beef in the slow cooker and add the stock and dried oregano… walk away and leave it for 12 hours.
- After 12 hours remove the beef. In a tray or bowl, gently tear the meat apart with two forks until it is all shredded. Leave to stand for a minute.
- Preheat a pan on a medium/low heat with the olive oil and add the bacon. Fry until browned then add the garlic, celery and onion and keep on a low heat until softened.
- Add the beef to the pan with the tomatoes, tomato puree and 2-3 ladles of the cooking broth from the slow cooker, making sure the ragu doesn’t get too loose then stir to combine, turn the heat up slightly and simmer for 10 minutes. If the mixture starts to dry up add more cooking broth.
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees or gas mark 4 and in your chosen lasagne dish spread your pesto evenly across the bottom and layer your first four lasagne sheets across the bottom of the dish.
- Put another saucepan on the hob on a low/medium heat and add the butter, when it just starts to melt shake in the flour and whisk well until it comes together completely (it will look a bit lumpy but don’t worry) then slowly start to add the milk, about a quarter at a time until it thickens then add more. Once it has all combined season to taste but I would recommend plenty of pepper!
- Take the now bubbling molten ragu and put a thin layer all the way across the pasta. Sprinkle a few little bits of the red Leicester and cheddar across it and drizzle the bechamel evenly to create a thin quilting across the meat. Repeat this to create four even layers and finish off with the last of the white sauce and scatter all of the cheese across the top of the lasagne. Put into the oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese has browned and the pasta has cooked through.
- Eat it and forget about any kind of calorie counting for the duration of the meal! I recommend serving with a glass of red wine, a few slices of garlic bread or like I did with some baked stuffed gnocchi and a salad.