Sunday, 15 January 2012

Easy Lasagna Pasta Bake

All those layers can make cooking a conventional lasagna a time-consuming architectural effort, rather than a 3 minutes to build, aesthetically-pleasing construction that this easy bake recipe offers.

Also, since a regular lasagna features sheets of pasta, rather than the conchiglie (pasta shells) in this recipe, presentation can be a bit... slidy. I can't think of a better word for what happens when you use a knife and a serving spoon to portion a family-sized lasagna and make it look presentable on a plate.

This recipe provides excellent value for money, at a wallet-friendly £2 per serving.

Serves 4

Beef Ragu


1 onion
1 carrot
1 stick celery
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
500g ground beef
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 large glass of red wine
400g can of chopped plum tomatoes
Pinches of salt and black pepper

Chop the vegetables finely and place them with the beef and olive oil in a large saucepan or wok. Brown on a low to moderate heat until all water has evaporated and the mixture is lightly frying in the oil (approx 30 minutes). Add the wine and herbs and allow to evaporate. Add the tomatoes and refill the can with water and also add to the pan with the salt and pepper. Cook uncovered until the sauce is thick and unctuous (approx 1 further hour, maybe a little more), making sure you stir every now and then to prevent sticking.

Bechamel Sauce


6 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of plain flour
500ml milk
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix the oil and flour in a saucepan and cook on a low to moderate heat until the flour is absorbed and the paste is cooked through (approx 10 minutes), stirring every minute or so to ensure ir doesn't burn. Add a tenth of the milk and stir vigorously until the paste thickens to a dough-like consistency. Add another tenth of the milk and repeat. Repeatedly add milk until you have a smooth sauce. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper. Cover the pan with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming on the sauce until you are ready to construct the lasagna bake.

Constructing the Lasagna Bake


500g conchiglie, or other pasta shapes
1 tablespoon of salt
100g grated parmesan or gran padano cheese
Black pepper

Preheat your oven at 240c. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water and the salt until three-quarters cooked (the pasta must have a very slightly hard centre). Mix the pasta with the beef ragu in an oven-proof casserole dish. Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the pasta/ragu mix. Sprinkle the cheese over the bechamel sauce and grind plenty of black pepper over the cheese. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling (15 minutes approx).

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