Three-cheese meat­ball lasagne

BBC Good Food - - Cover Story -

Take lasagne to the next level by swap­ping the meat sauce for sausage meat­balls. The fen­nel seeds and chilli add another layer of flavour and a lit­tle spice, which make this lasagne out­ra­geously de­li­cious.

SERVES 6-8 PREP 20 mins COOK 1 hr 35 mins MORE EF­FORT G 12 sausages

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, chopped

4 gar­lic cloves, crushed

2 tsp fen­nel seeds

2 tsp dried oregano or a small hand­ful of fresh oregano leaves, chopped

1/2 tsp chilli flakes (op­tional)

1 tbsp sugar

500ml pas­sata

400g can chopped toma­toes 100g but­ter

2 bay leaves

100g plain flour

1 litre milk

1/4 fresh nut­meg, finely grated 100g baby spinach hand­ful basil, leaves torn

50g parme­san, grated

250g dried lasagne sheets (about 12 sheets)

50g ched­dar, grated

150g ball moz­zarella, torn into small pieces

1 Squeeze the meat from the sausages and roll into meat­balls – you’ll get about four balls from each sausage. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wide, deep fry­ing pan or casse­role dish. Cook the meat­balls in batches, mak­ing sure you don’t over­crowd the pan, un­til they’re all golden brown. Put them aside on a plate when they’re ready.

2 Heat the rest of the oil in the pan and add the onion. Cook for 8-10 mins un­til soft, then stir in the gar­lic, fen­nel, oregano and chilli, if us­ing. Stir around for a min or 2, then add the sugar, pas­sata and toma­toes. Swish a lit­tle wa­ter around the con­tain­ers to wash out all the toma­toes and add to the pan. Sea­son well and sim­mer, un­cov­ered, for 30-40 mins over a gen­tle heat un­til the sauce thick­ens and the chopped toma­toes break down.

3 Heat the but­ter in a saucepan, add the bay leaves and let them siz­zle in the but­ter for 1 min, then add the flour. Whisk to make a smooth paste, then add the milk, a lit­tle at a time, stir­ring con­tin­u­ously un­til it’s all in­cor­po­rated and you have a thick white sauce. Add the nut­meg and some sea­son­ing. Leave over a low heat for 5 mins to al­low the bay to in­fuse, whisk­ing ev­ery now and then.

4 Keep about 10 meat­balls aside and add the rest to the tomato sauce. Spoon half the tomato sauce and meat­balls into a bak­ing dish (ours was 25cm x 35cm). Top with half the spinach, the basil and a lit­tle parme­san. Pour over about a third of the white sauce, and top with a layer of lasagne sheets, break­ing them up to fit the dish if you need to.

5 Re­peat the lay­ers once more; meat­balls and sauce, spinach, basil, parme­san, white sauce, pasta. Pour the re­main­ing white sauce over the lasagne, spread­ing it to the cor­ners to cover the pasta. Dot with the meat­balls you set aside ear­lier and the moz­zarella, then scat­ter over a gen­er­ous help­ing of parme­san and ched­dar. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Or if not eat­ing straight away, chill for up to 24 hrs or freeze for two months (de­frost in the fridge overnight be­fore cook­ing).

6 Bake the lasagne for 40-50 mins un­til bub­bling and golden with lots of crusty cheesy bits around the edges. Leave to sit for 5-10 mins be­fore serv­ing.

GOOD TO KNOW cal­cium • fi­bre • 1 of 5-a-day

PER SERV­ING (8) 771 kcals • fat 47g • sat­u­rates 22g • carbs 55g • sug­ars 17g • fi­bre 6g • protein 29g • salt 1.7g

The best lasagne dish

If us­ing a round or oval dish, just snap the sheets to fit. Stoneware, cast iron or glass will all do fine, but it should be sturdy enough to with­stand a good grilling (in case you want to blast the cheesy top­ping) and deep enough to hold plenty of lay­ers – about 7cm is per­fect. Han­dles are es­sen­tial to avoid cov­er­ing your oven gloves in bub­bling cheese.

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