Lasagne is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods and a clear-cut crowd pleaser. We’ve made our own incarnation with bells-and-whistles using our decadent Beef Cheek Bolognese as the ragu to deliver an added punch of deep, unctuous flavour. This is one of our favourite recipes and one that lends itself extremely well to both a lavish hosting menu and for making in batches to be frozen and enjoyed for many months later. A labour of love worth every minute.
2 Large Beef Cheeks, approx 900g
2 Onions, finely diced
1 Large Carrot, finely diced
2 Stalks of Celery, finely diced
100g Smoked Pancetta, diced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
3 tsp Tomato Concentrate
2 x 400g Tin of Peeled Plum Tomatoes
250ml White Wine
500ml Chicken Stock,
3 tsp Dried Oregano
2–3 Bay Leaves
25g Plain Flour
1 Large Bunch of Basil,
1 Small Bunch of Parsley, roughly chopped
Generous Pinch of Salt & Pepper
500ml Whole Milk
75g Butter, unsalted
60g Plain Flour
50g Parmesan, Grated
¼ tsp Ground Nutmeg
Pinch of Salt
500g Fresh Lasagne Sheets, this may vary depending on the size of your dish
100g Emmental, Grated
30g Parmesan, Grated
1. Preheat the oven to 160Cº.
2. Place a large, casserole pan over a low heat and add the diced pancetta into the pan, gradually increasing the heat to high as the fat renders out of the pancetta. Once sizzling and the pancetta is starting to crisp, remove from the pan.
3. Divide each beef cheek into 3 equal-sized pieces. Season the flour generously with salt and pepper and then dredge the beef cheek pieces in the flour until evenly coated.
4. Add an extra lug of olive oil to the pan, along with the pancetta fat and return to a high heat. Add the beef cheek pieces to the pan and brown on all sides. You may need to work in batches to do this. Once browned, remove from the pan.
5. Add in the onion, carrot and celery into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until starting to colour. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a splash of the white wine, scraping off any fond at the bottom of the pan, before adding the tomato concentrate to the pan, along with the plum tomatoes, oregano, milk and the remaining wine, mixing together to combine.
6. Return the beef cheek pieces and pancetta to the pot, and top up with chicken stock until just covering the pieces of beef cheek. You may need to add more or less chicken stock than specified depending on the size of your pan. Add a large bunch of basil and the bay leaves to the pan, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven with a lid and cook for 3½ – 4 hours until the meat is tender and almost falling apart.
TIP – You may want to turn the beef cheek pieces over halfway through cooking, stirring the sauce as you go to ensure nothing is catching.
7. Once cooked and very tender, remove the pan from the oven and discard the basil and bay leaves. Using two forks, break down the beef cheeks, lightly shredding the meat as you go and re-incorporate it into the tomato sauce. Add some fresh chopped basil and the chopped parsley.
TIP – This will yield a large quantity of the ragu and you may not use all of it in the lasagne. Fortunately, this ragu freezes exceptionally well and can be kept for several months to be enjoyed later. Alternatively, you can simply gobble any leftovers up with some pasta for the best bolognese you’ll ever have!
1. Place a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat and add the butter. Once the butter has fully melted, whisk in the flour and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.
2. Gradually add the milk to the pan, whisking as you go to prevent any lumps until fully incorporated and beginning to thicken. Allow the Sauce to thicken, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the consistency of a loose custard.
3. Once thickened, add in the parmesan, whisk together until fully incorporated and then season to taste with the nutmeg and salt.
4. Keep over a very low heat whilst you prepare the Lasagne.
ASSEMBLING THE LASAGNE
1. We used a 30cm x 20cm rectangular dish to bake our lasagne in and used approximately 500g of fresh lasagne sheets and roughly ¾ of the Ragu. This is likely to vary for you, depending on how large the dish you use is, especially the depth. We subscribe to the idea that a good lasagne is one with many thin layers of ragu and lasagne sheets – so the taller the dish you bake in, the better!
We used fresh lasagne sheets as it prevents the need to either blanch dried sheets or cook them entirely before assembly. However, if you prefer to use dried sheets – that will yield equally good results, just follow the cooking instructions specified with that particular sheet.
2. Add a thin layer of the ragu to the base of a large baking dish followed by a layer of the lasagne sheets. Top the sheets with another thin layer of the ragu followed by a thin layer of the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle over a small amount of the emmental – although not traditional, it adds a delicious nutty flavour and yields an amazing cheese-stretch once cooked!
3. Top with another layer of the lasagne sheets and repeat until you have either used up all of your ragu, or you have reached the top of the dish. Finish the dish with a last thin layer of the bechamel and top with some torn mozzarella and a final layer of grated parmesan. A final twist of pepper certainly won’t hurt either!
TIP – The Lasagne can be assembled a day in advance if necessary and will freeze extremely well too.
4. Preheat the oven to 160Cº.
5. Tightly cover the dish with foil and then place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the lasagne sheets are entirely cooked through.
6. Remove the foil and increase the heat of the oven to 200Cº. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the cheese on the top is golden.
7. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.