Meat is great. Meat is our friend. We couldn’t live without it. Still, every once in a while you feel like doing something different than butchering everything that moves around you, throwing it on a grill and devouring it with little more than a few sorry slices of vegetables and bread. Although we don’t believe in introducing high amounts of carbohydrates into our system, we do love one high-carb food more than most others: lasagne. But we don’t like to overuse the pasta. Thick layers of ragu, cheese and some bechamel sauce between the lasagne sheets will make it a delicious, hearty meal.The scale of this project was truly epic. We needed to fill 12 empty stomachs and for that we planned to bake two large dishful of lasagne. We realise however that most people won’t make lasagne at home on an industrial scale, so we decided that in the list of ingredients we will refer to amounts corresponding to a more common portion for 4 people.
Ingredients (serving 4)
- 20 lasagne sheets (depends on your pan, but 20 should be enough)
- 300 g (2/3 lb) beef mince
- 100 g bacon (optional)
- 1-2 carrots
- 1 large onion
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 0,2 l tomato puree (depends on the quality of the puree, better have some extra)
- 100 g butter
- 1 liter of milk
- mild cheddar, grated, as much as you like (in fact it works with many non-mature cheese, so use what you can get your hands on)
- parmesan, grated, as much as you like or can afford (optional)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 3 tbsp majoram
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 tsp sugar (optional)
For music we had to choose something ear-friendly, because among the 12 people we had guests whose ears were too sensitive to metal tunes. The choice was some Volbeat and In Flames live, let us share with you the latter one.
By the way, we just noticed that In Flames members Peter Iwers And Björn Gelotte are about to release a book titled ‘2112 – A Tale Of Meat And Metal’. Apparently, they opened a restaurant called 2112 in Göteborg back in 2011 and it quickly became renowned for its marvelous, award-winning burgers and well-selected beer. We need to keep that in mind next time we travel to Scandinavia!
We peeled and washed the onion, garlic and carrots. The onion was chopped, the garlic sliced and the carrot grated. We melted butter in a pan, dropped the onion on it and fried until it started to soften. At this point you can optionally throw in some bacon, cut into cubes. We dropped the grated carrots on top, poured in a little water and put on a lid for approximately 10 minutes.
Meanwhile we grated the cheddar. We also had a nice piece of genuine parmesan straight from Parma, Italy, so we grated that too into a separate bowl.
When the carrots were soft we removed the lid and dropped in the beef mince with the bay leaf. It was stirred on high heat until it was light brown everywhere. We spiced it with salt, black pepper, oregano and majoram. The amounts indicated above are guidelines only, it is best to taste it regularly until it is perfect. It must have a really strong taste because the bechamel will take away much of it. You must be especially generous with the green spices. In our experience the ratio of oregano and majoram should be 1/4 oregano and 3/4 majoram. I made this dish countless times but I continue to be surprised what an impossible amount of majoram is needed for the perfect taste. So don’t be shy with it!
When it starts to look a bit dry add in the tomato puree. Optionally, you can add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar. It really depends on what kind of puree you use. Most of them contain a lot of added sugar in the first place so chances are you won’t need any extra. Some of them are more natural products and taste somewhat sour rather than sweet. In this case, you can add sugar if you prefer. Again, taste after the ingredients blended and use your intuition.
You shouldn’t stop spicing until you feel it already tastes a bit too strong. That is perfect. Believe us, the end result will be just fine. At this point the ragu will likely be a bit dry even with the added puree, so pour in 1-2 dl of milk and stir thoroughly. Cook until the meet is soft than remove the pan from the heat.
Next, the bechamel. It is really simple. Melt butter, add flour, stir until the texture is uniform and slowly start adding milk. Lots of it.
Stir like crazy all the time. There are essentially two things you must pay attention to. First is to stir constantly. This will prevent knotting. You don’t want knots that taste like flour in your lasagne. If there are some in the beginning, don’t worry, just keep stirring and slowly adding milk. You should always allow time for the added milk to warm up. The bechamel should be hot but not boiling hot. When it is boiling, large bubbles emerge on the surface, like those hot mud pools in Yellowstone or Iceland and explode into your face. You don’t want that. The second thing you must pay attention to is not to burn the bechamel on the bottom of your pan. To avoid that, keep the heat reasonably low, stir constantly and use a pan with a thick bottom if possible.
By the time you used all the milk you should have a nice, thick white liquid. Add in 1-2 teaspoon of salt, 1 coffespoon of ground nutmeg and optionally a hint of ground white pepper. When they blended in, take it off the heat.
Lubricate the baking pan with butter and pour in a thin layer of bechamel. Cover it with lasagne sheets. From here on you have two choices. Either you layer the ragu and bechamel alternately, or you simply mix the two in a big enough pan first and start adding it as a single layer. We only use the first method when we want it to look really nice and special, but otherwise we prefer mixing the two and making sure that the final taste is just fine. If you choose to mix, start adding bechamel slowly because you may need to throw away some of the excess. The final colour should be a light but distinct orange. Don’t make it too white, if you have any excess bechamel throw it away. If the taste becomes too mild, add in more green spices, salt or pepper as needed.
Sprinkle some grated cheese on top of every layer of ragu/bechamel, then cover it with the next layer of lasagne sheets until the pan is almost full. Leave a fairly thick layer of bechamel/ragu for the top, then finaly cover it with the parmesane and the rest of the grated cheddar.
Put the lasagne in the pre-heated oven and bake it at 180 °C for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the top is nice and brown-ish. If it seems too juicy, turn off the heat and leave it in the cooling but still hot oven a little longer.
The end result should look something like this:
Would you take a bite? We hope you’ll try it at home!
Enjoy it with fine beer and metal!