Last week I had a bit of a wobble. It was bad thing on top of bad thing. I was craving comfort food. Only one thing for it, my mum’s spag bol.
We’ve all got one of those dishes right? Something mum/dad/nan used to make, that immediately soothes. It just makes you feel better. My mum did it with a ton of garlic, tins of tomato and the recipe she taught me, means that I can’t make a small batch. Ever. It has to be enough to feed a small army (and make their breath lethal at about twenty feet).
This means leftovers and much as Mr GFB and I can try and wade our way through the sauce, and cram it into the freezer, this week, enough was enough. I needed to use it up. So I went with another of my mum’s go to dishes, lasagne.
Much like spag bol, this isn’t a small dish, and would have been served with a side of homemade chips and carrots. Same as her moussaka. Tradition for some reason (I don’t think any of us are sure why). When it comes to the dish itself, it was far from traditional. Not just a plain white sauce on top. Oh no, this was always laden with enough cheddar and/or parmesan to make your lips smack. And enough for me to scoff bits while grating it. I’m not sure my efforts counted as ‘helping in the kitchen’. Then of course, it was topped with more cheese.
What’s a lasagne without a thick crispy cheese crust?
I normally follow in her footsteps, but from some TV programme I heard the whisper of ‘roasted pepper bechamel’. I’ve become fixated. What’s more, it’s bloody lovely. It makes it slightly sweet, and soft and round, and goes so well with the intense garlicky nature of my mum’s spag bol sauce. I may even next time adapt it further and make it with roasted red peppers and cheese. I’ll keep you posted on social obviously.
This recipe includes a variation of my mum’s spag bol sauce – but I know that it’s as ubiquitous in every other household as it was in ours, so just use leftovers if you have them. I’ve obviously reduced the amount for this particular recipe because otherwise you’ll end up with a small vat on the back of the hob. I may have had enough left after four meals for two lasagnes. No, I don’t do things by halves.
The bechamel sauce is easy peasy once you’ve mastered it. A tip is to leave your milk out before you make it so it warms up a little before you add it to the flour and butter mixture. And even if it initially goes lumpy, don’t panic, it usually comes through anyway. At worst, use a sieve – I mean, it’s what they were created for. And when layering, I’ve done three layers of red sauce and three of bechamel. If you want more sauce and less pasta, use what works for you. And of course, you can use the sauces on their own without making lasagne.
This is also easily turned veggie with a vegetable bolognaise sauce, but I’ve yet to master a vegan white sauce – and I know vegan pasta can be a little hit and miss. If you do turn this idea into something vegan, I’d love to know all about it, so please let me know. I’d be more than happy to link to it too. I hope you enjoy it.
Lasagne with Roasted Red Pepper Bechamel
For the bolognaise sauce
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Large onion, diced
- 4 Cloves of garlic (I've toned this down a bit!)
- 1 tsp Italian herbs (mix of rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil)
- 500 grams Beef mince (or you could mix 50:50 beef and pork)
- 1 tbsp Tomato puree
- 2 Tins of plum tomatoes
- 2 tbsp Plain flour
- t Stock cube or Stock pot
- 300 ml Boiling water
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the bechamel
- 50 tbsp Butter
- 50 tbsp Plain flour
- 600 ml Semi skimmed milk (at room temperature)
- 2 Red peppers
For the Lasagne
- 1 packet Lasagne sheets
- 75 grams Cheddar cheese, grated
- 75 grams Mozzarella cheese, grated
To make the bolognaise sauce:
In a large pan, on a medium heat, add the olive oil and the onions. Cook the onions until they soft and translucent.
Add the chopped garlic, and the herbs and cook until the garlic starts to turn golden.
Add the mince and cook until it browns. Add the tomato puree and cook for five minutes.
Then add the tomatoes. I use whole plum tomatoes, so take each tomato, and squidge it into the pan. This make it a little more chunky and textured. Use chopped if you prefer.
In the meantime, make up the stock with the hot water.
Once the tomatoes come up to a simmer point, add the flour and stir til it is blended into the sauce. This will thicken it up.
Turn up the heat, and add the made up stock. This will bring the sauce together and thicken it a little. Leave on the back heat to bubble slowly for about half an hour. You can then eat it as is, or continue to make the lasagne.
To make the bechamel:
On a medium heat, add the butter and flour to a pan. Bring together to form a paste, and cook on it's own for two minutes, stirring so it doesn't stick. This will cook out the flour taste.
Stirring consistently, add the milk a third at a time. The first time it will probably all incorporate, don't worry, it's fine, keep going.
When it's all been added to the pan, turn up the heat. Stir constantly until it comes to a boil.
It will thicken and now you can turn off the heat and put it to one side while you prepare the peppers.
Using the flame on your gas hob, char the outside of them all over, before popping them into a sealed plastic bag. If you don't have a gas hob, don't worry, simply halve them, and scoop out the seeds and core, and lay them on parchment paper on a baking sheet, and cook them in the oven for 25 minutes at 230°C (Gas Mark 8). The peppers should be soft, and the skins a little charred.
Once they're done, remove seeds and core (if you haven't already) and blitz them until smooth. Now stir into the bechamel.
For the lasagne:
Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C, fan 180°C.
And now to assembly! In a large oven dish, spoon a third of the bolognaise sauce and smooth until it covers the dish.
Then add a single layer over the lasagne sheets. Don't worry, they'll cook in the oven!
Add more red sauce.
Then more lasagne
More lasagne. Then bechamel.
Repeat with the bechamel and lasagne and the final bechamel layer. Top with the two types of cheese.
Finally put into your oven for about 45 minutes. To test, use a knife and if you can press all the way through to the bottom, the pasta is cooked and you can eat!