This recipe is for 4 persons. It involves 20 minutes of work and 40 minutes of baking, 60 minutes from start to finish. It requires only very basic skills, so everyone can do it.
In Germany, where I grew up, most people make lasagna at home on a very regular basis. As a matter of fact, most German cooking books I’ve seen contain one or more lasagna recipes, just like they contain recipes for Viennese schnitzel, Hungarian goulash, or three dozen French dishes. While all Germans are aware of the foreign origin of these dishes, they consider them to be German dishes nonetheless. Perhaps a bit like us here in the UK (I’m a dual British-German citizen), when we consider chicken curry, Beef Wellington, or Mulligatawny soup to be British dishes.
Photos for illustrative purposes only. Ratios and amounts of ingredients are different from recipe.
The following recipe is the one my Mom used, before she had the silly idea of focusing too much on health and too little on taste, about twenty years ago. I made a few changes, such as adding the chili flakes, omitting parsley, replacing beef stock with vegetable stock and large amounts of ultra-strong celeriac with a small amount of milder parsnip, skipping canned tomatoes, reducing the number of ingredients for the Bechamel sauce to absolute basics, adding cheese to the layers (not just to the top), and changing most of the ingredient ratios.
500g Minced meat (beef, ideally 15% or more fat)
1.5 Large onions
125mg Tomato puree paste
2.5 Tsp Extra virgin olive oil
2.5 Tsp Oregano
Salt & pepper
0.5 Tsp Chili pepper flakes
0.5 Tsp Nutmeg
0.5 Tsp Smoked, ground, red paprika powder
1 medium or large carrot (75g)
1 medium or large parsnip (75g)
2 Cloves of garlic
75g Plain flour
1 Vegetable stock cube/330ml, or equivalent
1/3l Full-fat milk (not skimmed or semi-skimmed)
250g Grated cheese (we prefer Emmental, else Gouda, mature Cheddar)
400g Lasagna sheets
For the lasagna sheets, we prefer the ones which contain eggs (for taste), which are as thin as possible, and which take max. 20mins to be ready to eat. You can easily add more layers of pasta, even directly on top of each other, ideally with sauce in-between, if you don’t want to miss out on the pasta taste and texture. The advantage of thin sheets is that the risk of them still being hard or chewy is close to zero. Nothing worse than having made all the effort with the two sauces and the preparation, only to find the end product is inedible because of underdone lasagna sheets. There is no risk of over-cooking the pasta here.
Until a surprisingly late stage in my early years I was a huge fan of Garfield comics. He embodied nearly everything I admired: a relaxed outlook on academic achievement, a completely ill-founded superiority complex, an unlimited capability for mischief and mayhem, as well as a penchant for lasagna. I can assure you that this is as close as it gets to the Garfield lasagna, you have my word for it.
Step 1 – Start pre-heating the oven on 180C (with full ventilation)
Step 2 – Chop the onion, garlic, carrot, and parsnip
Step 3 – Heat up about 2 to 3 table spoons of olive oil in one large pot
Step 4 – Add the chopped vegetables, keep on relatively high heat, stir regulary
Step 5 – After 5mins add minced meat, lower heat, continue to stir regularly
Step 6 – When the meat is largely starting to turn brown, but with plenty of pink and red bits left, add the vegetable stock (if in shape of cube, then crunch cube, add boiling water, stir very properly before adding, else liquid stock can be added cold), pepper, oregano, paprika powder, chili flakes, tomato puree, at low heat, continue to stir regularly (do not add salt until the last moment before you add the Bolognese sauce onto the lasagna sheets and only if deemed necessary after tasting); if sauce gets too dry or simply loses too much of its volume, then simply add water; it is much better to have some left-over sauce than end up without enough sauce for the lasagna, forcing you to either skip the last few layers or risk ending up with the lasagna sheets underdone
Step 7 – Slowly heat up the butter in a smaller pot at low heat
Step 8 – When butter is completely melted, gradually, bit by bit, stir in the flour with a metal spoon; the stirring itself should be fast, but the process overall very slow; only start adding more flour once everything put in so far has been completely mixed into the Bechamel sauce base without any thicker bits or lumps; process should take several minutes; add nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir in
Step 9 – When all the flour has been mixed into the butter, gradually, bit by bit, and extremely slowly stir in the milk; process should take several minutes
Step 10 – Take out the non-stick casserole, then add one thin layer of Bolognese sauce; remember: your aim is to fill the casserole up without any or at least without many gaps or air bubbles; the whole casserole is supposed to be filled with liquid in which the lasagna sheets and other ingredients float
Step 11 – Add a layer of lasagna sheets (don’t worry if they break)
Step 12 – Add a very thin layer of cheese, then a layer of Bechamel sauce
Step 13 – Add a layer of lasagna sheets
Step 14 – Add a layer of Bolognese sauce
Step 15 – Repeat Steps 11 to14 once
Step 16 – Add a layer of lasagna sheets, then put some Bechamel sauce and some cheese on top
Step 17 – Put the lasagna in the oven for 40 minutes
Step 18 – Serve while steaming hot
We like to enjoy our lasagna with plenty of slices of baguette and vast amounts of iceberg salad (with simple vinegar, olive oil, pepper & salt dressing). It is easy to underestimate the richness of the lasagna. Eating plenty of bread and lettuce helps keeping it all healthy and easy on the stomach and arteries. For those of you, who don’t mind a bit of tipple every now and then: no dish goes better with a dry, heavy red from Italy or Spain than a lasagna.
Let me know how the recipe worked for you. Perhaps you found a mistake or omission, or you have ideas for improvement? Don’t be shy and leave a comment.