You will have to excuse the photos for this wonderful dish – – at some point or another, I must have splashed the camera lens with sauce! I’ll re-do the photos next time I make it!
Olive oil for frying
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed with salt
2 celery stalks, scrubbed and finely chopped
1 packet streaky bacon (200g), rinds removed and chopped – normal or smoked
1kg minced beef
1 tray mushrooms, washed and sliced
2 cans (396g each) chopped tomatoes
Good splash of white or red wine (as preferred)
Beef stock as needed (up to 150ml)
2 tbsps tomato pure
Good big pinch of dried thyme or oregano (or more if you like)
Freshly ground black pepper
12 sheets ‘easy cook’ lasaña sheets (12 placas Lasaña Fácil, El Pavo)
50-80g grated Parmesan cheese / Emmenthal or Cheddar
For the Bechamel
1.5L milk (leche)
80g butter (mantequilla)
150g flour (harina)
1 or 2 cartons (200g) cottage cheese (Carrefour/Lidl lo tienen, o puedes echar Queso Quark en su lugar)
Sal, pepper & nutmeg (sal, pimienta y nuez moscada)
Paprika/nutmeg (for sprinkling on top)
Start off by making the meat filling/sauce. I usually make this the day before, or have bulk lots ready prepared in the freezer.
Heat a good base of olive oil in a large casserole and fry the bacon until starting to go crispy. Remove and set aside with a slotted spoon. In the remaining bacon fat and olive oil, fry the chopped onions and celery. When starting to turn golden, add the crushed garlic and continue cooking until the garlic starts to change colour. Add the minced beef to the pan and fry until browned, stirring constantly. Add a good splash of wine (red or white). Cook for a further couple of minutes. Stir in the reserved fried bacon, tomatoes, tomato pure, sugar, thyme (or oregano) and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, lower the heat, half cover and simmer gently for around 20 minutes or until the sauce is well reduced and thick. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat some olive oil and sweat the mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated, then add them to the meat sauce. On this particular occasion you’ll notice that the meat sauce also contained courgettes, washed and cubed, just because I had one left over in the fridge, although I don’t normally include them in this sauce!
Place the sheets of Lasaña in a rectangular pyrex dish in luke-warm water with a splash of olive oil, to stop them sticking together, (I hold them down under the water with soup spoons) for 10-15mins whilst you prepare the Bechamel.
For the Bechamel, melt the butter in a good-sized casserole. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, place on a humid dish-cloth (to prevent the casserole from moving), and with the help of a manual hand-whisk, gradually incorporate the milk (best at room temperature), whisking constantly to avoid lumps forming. Season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Continue heating and whisking until the desired texture is achieved. At this point you can add the cottage cheese and mix thoroughly.
Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC.
Now, in a large, rectangular clay dish or stainless steel roasting tin, start layering everything. Myself, I start off with a layer of the meat sauce, then pasta sheets, then Bechamel. Sprinle the first layer of Bechamel with some Parmesan, paprika and either Emmenthal or Cheddar. Continue with another layer of each meat sauce, sheets of Lasaña and finally a top layer of Bechamel. Finish off sprinkling the top with Parmesan, paprika, nutmeg and Emmenthal or Cheddar.
Cook in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes more or less or until browned and bubbling.
Serve with Garlic Bread and a green salad.