Lasagne – my quick and easy version

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8a is still in the kitchen! I have been procrastinating , I know. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, just that I’ve been cooking everyday that I have no idea which recipe I should post. Plus I’m not sure if anyone other than A would still be reading my irregular postings, and A has no need for recipes since he has me, his 24hr chef at home.

On another newsworthy note, I started a fire in my oven while baking biscotti yesterday. Ironically, the oven caught fire as I wanted to avoid one that could potentially be caused by aluminium foil in a combi-oven, hence I bought baking paper and that was what caught fire. I had to decide whether or not to douse the flames with water as I did not want to destroy my freshly baked biscotti, funny how my mind works in an emergency! I guess if my house was on fire I’ll save my biscotti first!!?!

Anyhow, we are off to Fontainbleau in France for a bout of outdoor bouldering next week! A peek into my fridge of perishables revealed lots of cheese, tomatoes and mushrooms. Browsing the supermarket aisle, I spotted a box of lasagne sheets with pictures of everything in my fridge on it. So much for a kitchen inspiration! I guess that’s why packaging is so important on a product. Prior to this, I have never made lasagne and had to scour the trusty internet for a recipe. Research tells me that a traditional lasagne recipe requires the meatsauce to be cooked for up to 4 hours! In addition, you would also have to make a bechamel sauce from scratch. I also recoiled in horror at the portions – a whole baking tray of lasagne looks huge enough to feed an army of trolls.

Hence with much improvisation, I decided on my own version of lasagne, keeping the components of meatsauce, whitesauce and cheese fairly simple and adjusting it to feed a smaller monster. The meatsauce derives much flavour from my added use of red pesto and lots of vegetables and mushrooms, hence there is no need to simmer it for hours on end. The whitesauce is also made simply by mixing some ricotta and cream. Bear in mind that my recipe is nowhere near traditional, but I reckon its good enough for me.

For those who want it even simpler to fit the busy urbanite’s lifestyle, simply use a flavourful store-bought pasta sauce for the meatsauce layer. I’ve tried various pasta sauces for my spaghetti from M&S or Da Paolo’s back in Singapore and they all taste fairly decent. Forget the cooking Nazis, there’s no shame in using something from a bottle, whatever works I say.

I had much fun assembling the layers of the lasagne…it reminds me of building lego blocks as a kid. Very therapeutic, and of course, the feeling of satisfaction you get when serving the lasagne and all the layers stay nicely packed and moist, I love looking at the layers, it just looks really…neat. That’s the organizer in me talking.

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So..there you go, easy Lasagne for two, served.

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*Serves 2 to 4. (A had to eat it for 2 dinners and a lunch!)

*Pre-heat your oven to 180°C

INGREDIENTS:

  • approximately 12 sheets of lasagne
  • 1 teaspoon of oil for greasing the baking pan
  • 2 handfuls of grated Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese

For the meat sauce:

  • 2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 1 large yellow/white onion (diced)
  • 2 cups of a mixture carrots and leeks (chopped)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cup sliced brown button mushrooms
  • 2 cups spinach (or any of your favourite leafy veg.)
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (optional)
  • minced beef (250g)
  • tomato passata (250ml) *you can also use any store bought pasta sauce and omit the pesto sauce. 
  • 1 tablespoon of red pesto sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the white sauce:

  • ricotta cheese (200g)
  • a splash of heavy cream
  • a dash of salt and pepper

Directions for the meatsauce:

1. In a deep saucepan, fry the onions till slightly soft and fragrant (about 3 minutes)

2. Add the garlic and minced beef to the onions and fry till the mince is cooked and slightly charred

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3. Add the carrots, leeks, tomatoes and mushrooms to the minced beef. Stir to mix evenly, then add the pesto sauce and tomato passata to the saucepan.

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4. Stir well to combine, add in some water/stock (or red wine if using) to loosen, preventing it from getting too dry or clumpy, let the sauce simmer partially covered, over the stove on low heat, for about 30 minutes.

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5. Once the sauce thickens, season with a dash of salt and pepper to taste. It should still be moist enough so that the lasagna sheets can cook in between without the sauce drying out too much in the oven. The sauce can also be used for a simple spaghetti and can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.

6. Turn off the stove and mix in the spinach / leafy vegetables for a good measure of healthy fibre. The remaining heat will be enough to lightly cook the veg.

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Directions for the white sauce:

1. Combine the ricotta cheese, a splash of cream, salt and pepper in a bowl and lightly mix them till you achieve a smooth, spreadable paste (like cream cheese). Set aside for use later.  I’m using a herbed ricotta here since I happen to have one of these in my fridge.

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Assembling the lasagne:

Here comes the fun part, assembling the layers of the lasagna!

1. Lightly grease a baking tray with some olive oil. (I’m using a regular loafpan here since this is a scaled-down portion of lasagna)

2. Start with the meatsauce – spoon a layer evenly at the bottom of the tray.

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3. Lay the sheets of lasagne on top of the sauce.

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4. Followed by a layer of white sauce.

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5. Repeat the layering process (meatsauce, lasagna, whitesauce) till it reaches the top of the tray. Finish the top layer off with a sprinkling of grated parmesan or mozzarella cheese.

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To save for later:
– clingfilm the entire tray and refrigerate until required.

To bake immediately:

1. Partially tent the tray with aluminium foil and bake it in the preheated oven (180°C) for 30 minutes.This prevents the sauce from drying out too much as you’ll want to cook the lasagna sheets first.

2. After 30 minutes, remove the aluminium foil and ramp the temperature up to 200°C to bake for another 10 minutes. The top layer of cheese should be nice and golden brown when it is done.

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