Serves: 6 - Time:
Lasagne is often seen as a bit of an old workhorse dish, brought out to sate large appetites rather than to impress diners. A good lasagne-which can I say this is-is a magnificent thing and should be served proudly. None of this “it’s just lasagne for supper” please. When cooked properly and with care lasagne takes quite a long time to make but once assembled can be left to its own devices while you then put your feet up. Roasting the mushrooms is one of the keys to the wonderful flavour of this dish. Shitake mushrooms especially have an intense umami taste when they are cooked at high temperatures until they are almost dry. The other key ingredient is the porcini stock cubes. I bulk buy them whenever I am in Italy but you can get them online at www.melburyandappleton.co.uk.
- 300g chestnut mushrooms, brushed clean
- 300g shitake mushrooms, stalks removed
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 sticks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 800g veal mince
- 100ml white wine
- 2 porcini mushroom stock cubes dissolved in 650ml boiling water
- 3 heaped tablespoons tomato purée
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
- 9-12 lasagne sheets (the amount will depend on the size of your dish)
- 70g butter
- 75g flour
- 800ml milk
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 30g freshly grated Parmesan
- Heat the oven to fan 200˚c, mark 6. Roughly chop the mushrooms if they are really big. Put them in a large roasting tin in one layer and drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well and season with salt and ground black pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, giving them a stir halfway through cooking. Set aside.
- While the mushrooms are roasting you can start the ragu. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot and celery to the pan with a pinch of salt and stir over a moderate heat for 10 minutes until the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes. Set aside while you brown the mince.
- Heat a large frying pan until it is really hot. Add about a quarter of the mince-you won’t need any oil- and brown in the pan for 3-4 minutes, breaking up the clumps of meat with a wooden spoon. Spoon the browned mince into the vegetables. Repeat with the remaining mince.
- Pour the wine into the empty frying pan and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits of mince which might have stuck to the bottom. Pour over the mince.
- Stir the porcini stock, tomato purée, bay leaf and thyme into the mince and vegetables. Stir well and slowly bring to a simmer. Let the mince bubble for 50 minutes. Add the mushrooms and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Taste and season with ground black pepper and a little salt if necessary.
- While the mince is cooking soak the lasagne sheets in cold water. This softens them for cooking and makes them easier to layer. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually stir in the milk and cook, stirring until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the nutmeg and taste and season with salt and white pepper (or black if you haven’t got white).
- Turn the oven down to fan 190˚c, mark 5. To assemble the lasagne, firstly drain the lasagne sheeets. Spread a little of the ragu over the base of a deep ovenproof dish. Arrange three lasagne sheets (or perhaps four depending on your dish) on top of the meat. Spoon over about one third of the white sauce. Repeat twice more. Scatter the top of the lasagne with the parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve with a simple green salad.