Lasagne is one of the most known Italian pasta dishes worldwide. It’s a popular dish everywhere in Italy and is often associated with Sundays, festivities and family gatherings. Making lasagna is not that difficult however it takes a while to prepare it properly, but the good news is that you can make it well ahead of time and freeze it, raw or cooked. Usually when I have time – mainly in winter when it rains and weekends are mostly spent inside – I prepare lasagne in relatively small batches, cook it and freeze it portioned. They come handy on days when I know I’m very busy so I take it out of the freezer the night before to allow it to thaw out completely in time for lunch.
Lasagne recipe: ingredients are the key
The key to preparing fantastic and authentic lasagne is the “sugo“. Usually it is made with minced pork and beef, but if you don’t like meat you can use a simple sugo made with vegetables, or just onion and tomato passata. If you choose to go traditional however, be sure the meat you are using is high quality. Italian sausages are very different from all other sausages around the world, if you can get those, the final taste will be more authentic.
The other focal point in preparing the authentic Italian lasagna is the bechamel, this white sauce makes this dish soft and creamy and gives it a unique texture.
Last but not least is the pasta: you can prepare it at home or use the one you buy in the stores, either fresh or dried, but it has to be made with quality ingredients. When I’m in a hurry or I don’t want to spend time preparing the pasta I usually use the dried one, it’s really quick to use and you don’t even have to cook it first. When using dried pasta sheets you can use this simple trick: the bechamel and the tomato sauce should be very liquid, this way the pasta sheets will absorb all the excess moisture and cook properly.
Lasagne recipe healthy tips and tricks
Lasagne are a very rich recipe with a lot of meat, cheese and milk – in some regions in Italy they add boiled eggs inside too and they call it timballo – however you can make this recipe in a lighter version without feeling too guilty about it. Actually the amount of pasta you need for this dish is less than a usual pasta serving, and if you opt for a vegetable lasagna you end up eating 3 of your 5-a-day veggie portions.
To reduce the fat content in the recipe I usually do not add any oil or other fat to the sugo (especially when using meat such as sausages) or to the béchamel. I know many will think that it’s not a béchamel if does not contain a lot of butter, but I can assure you the taste will be amazing but the calories won’t be as much as a traditional serving. Try the white sauce in the light cauliflower gratin for a low fat quick béchamel.
You can also make lasagne into a slow cooker.
Home made pasta for Lasagne
If you want to make your own pasta follow the recipe on the home made pasta page. To make lasagne out of it you have to cut it into 10x15cm rectangles or even make pasta sheets as large as your tray. When making your own pasta, you can also try to use different flours, I sometimes add some spelt or barley to make the pasta richer in nutrients (barley contains betaglucans that helps our heart and cardiovascular system staying healthy).
Now let’s checkout all the basic ingredients to make an authentic italian lasagna:
Ingredients for 6 servings
For the tomato sauce:
- 800gr of canned tomatoes puree or tomato passata
- 400gr of minced meat (pork and beef)
- 3 italian sausages
- 1/2 carrot
- 1/2 celery stalk
- 1/2 onion
- 400ml of water
- 2 tablespoon of oil
- A glass of red wine
For the béchamel:
- 1lt low fat milk
- For the roux: 30gr of butter and 4 tbsp of regular flour
- a pinch of grounded nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 300gr of fresh egg pasta
- 300gr of mozzarella cheese
- 150gr of greated parmigiano or grana padano
First you’ll need to prepare the sauce: chop finely the onion, the carrot and the celery. Heat a sauce pan, add the oil and the veggies and let them cook for a couple of minutes. If you like you can add chili pepper. Add the minced meat and the sausages and stir fry until the meat changes color (il will turn slightly grey). Add a glass of red wine (you can also use white if you don’t have red) and let it evaporate. Add the tomato puree and the water, mix well then add the salt and pepper and let it cook for about a couple of hours at low heat. Stir from time to time and check the sauce, if it’s too dry add a little water.
Then prepare the bechamel. Make a roux melting the butter in a pan with the flour. Transfer the roux in a bowl. Then bring the milk to a boil, then pour it on the roux while stirring with a whisk to make the mixture melt. Pour the milk back into the pot, add the grounded nutmeg, salt and bring it again to a boil while stirring. It will start to thicken. Boil for a few minutes, until it becomes thick as a cream. Remove from the stove and cover with a plastic wrap. Lay the wrap onto the surface to avoid drying.
Using cooked pasta: bring the water to a boil, add salt and cook a few sheets of pasta at a time for three minutes. In the meantime prepare a large bowl with icy water. Drain the pasta with a kitchen tong or a fork and put it into the water to stop the cooking process.
Using raw pasta: if you want to go for the quicker recipe, avoid cooking the pasta and go directly to step 4. Remember to add some water or to make the sugo or the béchamel more liquid to allow the pasta to cook.
Now it’s time to assemble the lasagne: prepare the saucepan with the tomato sauce, the bowl with the pasta, the white sauce, the mozzarella cheese chopped finely and the parmigiano near the baking tray (40x30cm) where you’re going to cook the lasagna. Start by spreading a spoonful of tomato and white sauce on the base of the tray. Then layer the pasta until the bottom is covered.
Add a ladle of tomato sauce, white sauce, sprinkle some parmigiano and a little mozzarella cheese. Keep layering all the ingredients. If you want a crispy lasagna you should add more parmigiano on top and less on the inside.
Cook the lasagna in the oven at 200°C (about 390°F) for about 45 to 55 minutes. It depends on how crispy you like the top.