The Best Chicken Lasagna Recipe
Lasagna, glorious, cheesy, meaty lasagna to make you and your family happy and full to bursting.
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Ingredients to serve 4 people:
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
450g / 1lb Minced Raw Chicken
3 rashers of Organic Rindless Bacon, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
225g / ½lb of Organic Leeks, sliced
113g / 4 ozs Organic Carrots, grated
2 tablespoons of dried Italian Seasoning
2 tablespoons of Tomato Puree
200g / ½ can of Chopped Tomatoes, pureed
1 cup of Chicken Stock
10-12 Lasagna Sheets (no need to pre-cook)
Cheese Sauce Ingredients:
50g / 2 oz / 4 tablespoons of Butter
50g / 2 oz / ½ cup of Plain Flour
600ml / 1 pint / 2½ cups of Whole Milk
115g / 4oz / 1 cup of Mature Cheddar Cheese, grated
A pinch of English Mustard Powder
Salt and Pepper
Note: It seems to me that herbs in other countries are different to the ones in the UK so with that in mind our dried Italian Seasoning contain; Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Black Pepper (10%), dried Garlic (10%). By the way I love the way the Americans say Oregano, so cute.
We went to Rome in February with about twenty of our friends, such fun!
I had never been to Italy despite having a great great grandfather who came from Napoli and I'm very excited, so with that in mind I'm going to introduce you to one of my favourite dishes, Chicken Lasagna.
Now this is not one of my quick and easy recipes, this is definitely a labour of love because it takes about an hour to make and a further hour to cook, but it is also definitely worth it.
Nothing quite hits the spot as a good lasagna, I have always been in love with this wonderful Italian dish, I doubt very much that it's how the Italians make it but it's how I make it and the way people devour it tells me that it's a good recipe.
Most Lasagna's are normally made with beef, the difference with this particular Lasagna is that it's made with chicken, I was in the supermarket some years ago when I spotted minced chicken while out buying the ingredients to make my Lasagna and decided that it might work, and I'm so glad that I did. I hope you're going to try it, maybe instead of your traditional Sunday lunch, it takes about the same time but there's no juggling timing as it all goes in the oven and stays there for 45 minutes to an hour, all you have to do is rustle up some salad in the meantime and serve to your hungry family.
Over the years I have made some tweaks to the recipe and I think it's finally there, this is the version that I made this last night, everyone loved it and despite my son groaning that he had eaten too much and it hurt, he came back 4 hours later and finished off the last portion I was going to stick in the freezer. So with that as a recommendation why wouldn't you try it.
Warning: Just because it's a chicken version doesn't mean it's low fat - it's not, but it is highly addictive - you have been warned!
Let's Get Started...........
Please prepare all your ingredients beforehand, it makes this dish much easier and is less daunting for a first time try at cooking lasagna.
- Heat the oil in a large flameproof pan.
- Add the minced chicken and bacon, stir fry till brown, use your spoon to break down the larger clumps of chicken that form, there will always be some and the lasagna is all the better for biting into large juicy chunks of meat so don't worry too much.
- Once brown, add the 2 crushed garlic cloves, the sliced leeks and the grated carrots and cook for about 5-8 minutes until the vegetables soften.
The grated carrots will melt into the sauce, thickening it and enriching it's flavour, it's also a great way of thickening any meaty sauces that you're doing and adding nutrition and vitamins at the same time. It's also a great way of getting carrots into children, and adults, who don't care for them.
In the photograph below you can see that I tried the carrots chopped into chunks to see if it would enhance the texture, it didn't and the kids wondered why I added carrots, I've always added carrots they've just never seen them before, so trust me grated is definitely the way to go.
So at this point it doesn't look particularly like a lasagna and truth be told it doesn't look hugely appetizing but bear with me, keep focusing on the first photograph.
- Now we're going to add the 2 tablespoons of tomato puree, 2 tablespoons of Italian Seasoning, ½ a can of the pureed chopped tomatoes, 1cup of chicken stock and some seasoning.
- Please taste your sauce every now and then as you go along from this point so that you can decide whether you want more salt and pepper.
- Bring the ragu (that's what it is now) or sauce if you prefer, bring this to a boil, place a lid on your pot and bring the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for 30 minutes, occasionally stirring.
Now while your meat sauce is cooking you're going to make the cheese sauce, it only takes about 15-20 minutes so you've plenty of time, and you're going to preheat your oven to 190ºC / 375ºF / Gas Mark 5.
Making the Cheese Sauce
Those adept sauce making people out there can skip this bit. But for those of you who worry about making sauces, many years ago I was one of you, I would have gone to the supermarket and bought a packet of cheese sauce which cost a ridiculous amount and in no way compares to a homemade version. I've recently taught my friend Jane, I know she won't mind me saying this to the world, but I recently taught her how to make a basic sauce and how to add to it and she was so overjoyed, she says it's saving her a fortune and is very, very pleased with herself. I have to say I think back to when I didn't know what I was doing and the first time I managed it I felt exactly the same. So I know you can do it, the key is not to worry, and not to panic, it's going to look like wet, or dry, concrete at some stage but it will be a glossy, gorgeous cheese sauce to be proud of in the end. So here goes!
- Melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan, not one of the tiny ones, there's quite a lot of sauce here so a decent 2 pint one should suffice.
- Add the flour and stir, this is when it looks like pastry and you think it's never going to work - bear with it.
- Now add a couple of tablespoons, or a small slosh of the milk and keep stirring, it will look wet for a minute and then all dry up again, that's normal, when all the milk disappears, add a little more, it won't be until you've put in about a cup to a cup and a half that it will start to look like sauce but that's how it goes. Keep sloshing in a little milk and stirring till it disappears and finally it will start to look like a sauce, don't worry about lumps, they will disappear, just little by little and stir to make it disappear and it will be perfect.
- Once all the milk is in simmer for a couple of minutes and then add HALF the grated cheese, and a pinch of mustard and some seasoning to taste - taste the sauce it's the only way you can season to taste anything.
As you can see you now have a wonderful cheesy glossy homemade sauce.
Eileen's Tip #1: The stronger the strength of your cheese the less cheese you have to use, so if you're worried about the fat or calorie content, buy a stronger cheese and cut the quantity.
Building Your Lasagna
This is when you're Lasagna is going to come together - this is the easiest part (well apart from eating it).
I used a ovenproof dish about 2 litres / 3 pints to hold this amount of mixture, always err on the side of larger so that it doesn't end up in the bottom of your oven, as it does swell slightly.
- First spoon in a layer of your meat sauce
- Then a layer of your cheese sauce
- Then place your sheets of pasta over this to cover them, you can snap pasta to size if they don't fit.
- And you're going to repeat this procedure once or twice depending on the depth of your dish.
- Note: The last layer will be a layer of meat covered with the rest of your cheese sauce which you will then sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
Eileen's Tip #2: I also like to add some grated Parmesan Cheese to the top of the Lasagna, it just kicks the flavour up a couple of notches.
- Place a sheet of foil in the bottom of your oven to catch any escaping lasagna.
- Place your lasagna in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour and serve when it's golden brown.
The smells coming from the oven are fantastic over this next hour, now is the perfect time to open a good bottle of Italian red wine (I've opened a 1996 Pomorosso and it's bliss) and throw together a salad. On nights like this it's seldom that the family needs to be called to dinner, they're normally hovering in anticipation, it also seems to be much easier to get them to set the table when they know it's Chicken Lasagna for dinner.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does - from our kitchen to yours - Buon appetito!
Italian Cookery Books:
Lasagna Pans and Dishes:
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