Lasagne al Forno recipe

Lasagne made with beef and pork mince topped with mozzarella
 

This is what I consider to be the ultimate lasagne. It’s inspired by Marks & Spencer’s ‘Lasagne al Forno’ and ‘Best Ever Lasagne’, both of which are like their regular lasagne on steroids. Half beef/half pork mince, red wine and pancetta combine to make a spectacular meat sauce and I add porcini mushrooms and buffalo mozzarella for good measure.

I make my usual white sauce from creme fraiche and parmesan but for this lasagne I combine it with a flour/butter/milk roux, which makes the sauce richer and silkier. I don’t usually bother with a roux as the creme fraiche/cheese sauce is decent on its own but I’m happy to go the extra mile here. Half fat creme fresh is fine to use but the white sauce will look more like the sauce pictured in this vegetarian lasagne recipe.

The meat I buy (from a supermarket) comes in 500g packs so I use 1kg of meat in total, which makes too much meat sauce for this 32 x 24cm lasagne. The amount needed depends on the size and depth of your dish so I think it’s better to make more and have leftovers, rather than risk making a shallow lasagne. I usually have enough leftovers to make an extra single portion of lasagne in this small Le Creuset baking dish.

Notes

I use a 32 x 24cm dish, which yields 8 portions rather than the usual 6 as this lasagne is incredibly rich.

Finely dicing onions, carrots and celery can take a while so I often use frozen, pre-chopped soffrito instead. I buy it from Ocado and use around 300g from the 500g bag.

I use fresh lasagne sheets but dried sheets are fine too - just make sure that the meat sauce contains enough liquid to soften them. If in doubt you could briefly soak the dried sheets individually in boiled water before assembling the lasagne.

Leftovers keep in the fridge for up to 2 days or they can be frozen. Defrost any frozen lasagne overnight in the fridge before reheating.

Ingredients

Serves: 8

Meat sauce (will result in some leftovers)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 90g pancetta
  • 150ml red wine
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 500g beef mince (I use 5% fat)
  • 500g pork mince (I use 12% fat)
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes (800g total)
  • 10g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 150ml freshly boiled water
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • large handful of fresh basil, leaves and stalks sliced
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • salt and black pepper

White sauce

  • 25g butter
  • 4 tsp plain flour
  • 100ml full fat milk
  • 300ml creme fraiche
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 60g Parmesan cheese
  • black pepper

Lasagne

  • 300g fresh lasagne sheets (my pack contained 18 small sheets but I used 16)
  • 125g ball of buffalo mozzarella
  • extra virgin olive oil (to finish)

Method

  1. Place a large saucepan (that will accommodate 1kg of meat) over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Meat sauce: Add 2 large, diced onions, 2 diced sticks of celery and 1 diced carrot to the saucepan and fry for 10 minutes. Add 5 chopped cloves of garlic and fry for another 10 minutes then add 90g of pancetta. Once the pancetta starts to colour (after 5 minutes or so), add 150ml of red wine and crush in 1 beef stock cube.
  3. Once the wine starts to bubble, add 500g each of beef and pork mince (1kg total), breaking it up in the pan. Fry for around 10 minutes until the meat loses its rawness then add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes (800g).
  4. Add 10g of dried porcini mushrooms to a small jug and pour over 150ml of boiled water. Let the mushrooms rehydrate for a few minutes then use a fork to transfer them to the meat sauce. Carefully pour the mushroom soaking water into the meat sauce but leave the last 50ml or so as it will contain grit from the mushrooms.
  5. Add 200g of sliced mushrooms to the meat sauce along with 1 tablespoon of tomato purée, 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons of dried oregano, a large handful of sliced basil leaves and stalks and ½ a teaspoon of sugar. Allow to come to a bubble and stir occasionally to stop the sauce from catching on the bottom of the pan. If the sauce starts to look dry, add a little more boiled water. Taste and season the sauce with salt and pepper (I add around 1 teaspoon of kosher salt).
  6. White sauce: Place a small saucepan over a low heat and add 25g of butter, 4 teaspoons of plain flour and 2 tablespoons of milk (from 100ml). Whisk vigorously until the flour starts to thicken and slowly add more milk, around 2 tablespoons at a time, until all the milk has been used up.
  7. Add 300ml of creme fraiche, ½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 60g of grated Parmesan cheese and some black pepper to the saucepan. Once the cheese has melted, turn off the heat and taste the sauce to check the seasoning.
  8. Lasagne: Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan).
  9. Pour a quarter of the meat sauce into the baking dish, smooth it out and add a layer of lasagne sheets on top. It doesn’t matter if the sheets overlap.
  10. Repeat the meat sauce and pasta layers three more times (so you end up with four layers of meat sauce and four layers of pasta in total) then pour the white sauce over the final layer of pasta, smoothing it to the corners of the dish. Tear over a 125g ball of buffalo mozzarella, drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil then transfer to the oven to bake for around 35-40 minutes. I rotate the lasagne after 25 minutes so that it browns evenly.
  11. Once the top of the lasagne has turned golden brown, remove it from the oven, leave to stand for 5 minutes then slice and serve immediately.