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Lasagne With Bechamel Sauce
I love lasagne. I have ever since I was a young child. I remember my Aunt used to always bring a home made lasagne to all the family gatherings, and it was always the first thing I put on my plate. I have had it may different ways over the years but hers was the best. Maybe it was just the memories of those family gatherings, I'm not sure, but after many trails, I have settled on this recipe as the one I cook for my family and friends and it is as close to my Aunts as I can get...I think anyway. I love the way the bechamel sauce gives it a velvety, creamy texture, and the golden melted cheese on the crunchy and chewy top is my sons favourite part. Food is a great thing for bringing back memories of years past, and this is one of mine, and I dare say it will be one of my children's too!
Ingredients - Meat Sauce
- Olive Oil
- 750 grams Minced Beef
- 1 large Onion, finely chopped
- 2 stalks of Celery, finely chopped
- 400 gram tin of diced Tomatoes
- 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 tsp dried Mixed Herbs
- 1 - 2 tsp Sugar
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Ingredients - Bechamel Sauce
- 3 cups Milk
- 3 tbsp Plain Flour
- 3 tbsp Butter
- Salt and Pepper to taste
You will also need 1 packet of Lasagne sheets, about 375 grams (fresh or dried) and 1 cup of grated Vintage Cheddar Cheese.
Pre heat your oven to 180c (350f)
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy based pan and brown the beef in batches, adding a little more oil if needed. Remove the beef to a bowl and set aside, continuing until all the beef has been browned. You don't want to overcrowd your pan as you'll end up boiling the meat in it's own juices. You're looking for a nice brown, almost caramelised beef to get a good flavour happening.
Now that the meat is done and set aside, gently cook the onion and celery until soft and golden (add a little more oil to the pan if needed). This can take around five to ten minutes to get the right texture.
Leave the onion and celery in the pan and return the cooked minced beef along with the tomatoes, tomato paste, dried herbs and sugar. Give it a good stir to combine.
Bring the meat sauce to the boil, reduce the heat and cover with a lid and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
The easy part is done....
Making the bechamel sauce can be a little time consuming, as you need to make sure to stir continuously to get rid of any lumps and make to sure it doesn't stick and burn on the bottom of the saucepan.
So, now get a medium sized saucepan and melt the butter. Once melted, add the plain flour and using a wooden spoon stir for 1 minute or until it becomes pale and foaming. You want to cook out the flour taste. There's nothing worse than delving into a creamy sauce and having it taste of raw flour.
Once you have done this, remove it from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring continuously to incorporate them together. Add about 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time. It will look like a cookie dough to start with, and eventually as you add more milk and keep stirring it will start to resemble a thick cream. Once you think you have no lumps, add the remaining milk. At this stage it will return to looking like a saucepan of milk.
Return to the heat and stir constantly until the sauce comes to a boil and starts to thicken. I will switch from the wooden spoon to a wire whisk and keep stirring at this point. You can take a break from the bechamel, but not too long as it will tend to stick like I mentioned before, to keep checking and stirring the meat sauce...multitasking at it's best here. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes. Once the required thickness is reached add some salt and pepper to taste.
Lightly grease a 2.5 litre oven proof dish with some olive oil. Spoon 1/3 of the meat sauce over the bottom of the dish and then layer with the fresh or dried lasagne and top with 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Repeat this process 2 more times, and then cover the top with the grated vintage cheddar cheese. You could even layer on top some thinly sliced tomatoes, that would be delicious, but I keep my tomatoes in the sauce so my youngest will eat it.
Place the lasagne into the pre heated oven for half an hour, or until the top is golden brown and the lasagne sheets are heated and cooked through.
Serve with a fresh garden or Greek salad, some crunchy garlic bread and a nice glass of red wine.