Monday, 9 November 2009
Sometimes you are in the mood for something simple and uncomplicated. Something that you can just throw together using bits and bobs from your larder and your fridge.
A tasty lasagne is just the ticket for days like that.
Simple and clean flavours. It needn't be too involved, or a work of art.
Just a tasty tomato sauce, some rich bechamel and layers of cheese.
You can throw in whatever you wish. If you want to add a layer of browned minced beef, then do so . . . or a layer of browned spicy flavoured Italian sausage . . .
Or some grilled vegetables and a mixture of a variety of cheeses. It can be as fancy or as simple as you are in the mood for. There are no firm and fast rules about what is needed, as long as you have the three basic barebones ingredients . . . a tasty tomato sauce, some lovely bechamel and lasagne noodles of course. I like to use the fresh ones, but you can use dried ones that you need to boil first. The rest is all up to you . . .
Sometimes it's the uncomplicated things that are the most comforting of all. All you need here is a tossed salad and perhaps some garlic toast on the side.
If mama's happy . . . everybody's happy.
Serves 6 to 8
This is simple, uncomplicated, straightforward and delicious. A delicious tomato sauce, with some cheese, lasagna sheets and a good bechamel. You can dress it up by adding some different cheeses, such as goat's cheese, or a few dollops of pesto, or some grilled vegetables between the layers. What you have here is a canvas to write your own story upon . . .
For the Tomato Sauce:
4 ounces olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed slightly
3 14-oz tins of chopped tomatoes in their own juice
(I like to use a good Italian brand)
about a dozen or so torn basil leaves
salt and black pepper to taste
For the Bechamel:
4 1/2 ounces butter
a scant 3 ounces flour
2 pints of whole milk, warmed
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste
12 ounces of fresh lasagne sheets
3 ounces freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
6 ounces grated mozarella or a mixture of mozarella, cheddar, fontina, etc.
(In other words which cheese you are in the mood to eat, or what you have on hand)
For the sauce, place the oil in a saucepan and heat it til fairly warm. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes quite fragrant. Add the tomatoes and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or so until it resembled a sauce. Add the basil and 1 cup of hot water towards the end of the cooking time. Puree until smooth with a stick blender, or very carefully in a regular blender. (You can either leave the garlic in, or remove it as you wish.) Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt and some pepper if required.
To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a saucepan and then whisk in the flour. Cook for several minutes over low heat and then slowly whisk in the warm milk. Cook and stir until the sauce thickens and is smooth. Season with salt, pepper and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or so on low heat, until you have a very thick and smooth sauce. Set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a deep 8 1/2 by 12 inch baking dish. Drizzle the bottom with some of the bechamel. Put a slightly overlapping layer of the lasagne sheets over the bechamel. Dollop with some of the tomato sauce, spreading it out. Dollop another two hefty spoonfuls of bechamel over top and then a layer of the cheeses. Add another layer of lasagne, and then repeat with the tomato, bechamel and cheese as before, and then again, repeating the layers one more time, finishing with a final layer of lasagne and a few tablespoons of tomato sauce and a good portion of bechamel. You can sprinkle with some additional parmesan cheese if you desire, or dot with some butter. Place in the heated oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until it is bubbling and golden brown on top. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.