Epic Lasagne

LasagneThis Epic Lasagne is definitely deserving of its name. I realise that I, an Irishman, have no right to claim to have reinvented the lasagne but this is a unique take on it that I would gladly recommend to everyone. Most people have made lasagne before and probably have their own favourite way of putting it together. They might have a white sauce that they are happy with, b├ęchamel or cornflour, their own cheese blend, their own preferred ingredients to add to the meat sauce, they might have a preference of cooked lasagne sheets over raw ones. If you are not one of those people, then you should follow the entire recipe below. If you are one of these people, then by all means, stick to as much of your own recipe as you like. The only difference that I think everyone should try at least once is instead of using minced meat and Italian sausage, try slow roasting some beef and pork and pulling and shredding it and incorporating it into you’re stewing tomatoes and vegetables to make the meat sauce.

I got this idea from Jamie Oliver’s Shepherd’s Pie recipe where he used pulled, shredded, slow-roast lamb shoulder instead of mince or some leftover roast. I tried that recipe and it really was out of this world so I thought about replacing the usual meat in a lasagne ragu with beef brisket and pork shoulder and people went insane for it! The first time I made it I probably made enough for three big lasagnes so I assembled two, served one, froze one and froze the remaining ragu.

When slow-roasting joints of meat, it is important to select working cuts so they will have lots of connective tissue running through it which will slowly melt and tenderise the meat from within. Brisket would be the best beef, I think, and pork shoulder worked really well for me but ask your butcher for advice. That’s what he/she is there for! They should also be able to recommend cooking times and temperatures but I think 2 hours per Kg at 170 degrees celsius is a safe bet. I know that this may mean a long time in the oven but you can put it in in the morning and not worry about it or do a single thing for hours! Though you can always crack on with the red and white sauces maybe an hour before they come out.

The recipe below is admittedly delicious but a little basic so feel free to mix it up however you like. If you’d prefer it spicy then add some chilli to the red sauce before the meat goes in. I sometimes add olives and capers too or start of by frying a few anchovy fillets in the oil before I add the veg. They will dissolve so even people who hate anchovy will love it because they will just add subtle savouriness. Fennel works well in a ragu too, either the seeds or the bulb. If I haven’t lost all credibility already, I’m sure I will when I suggest some Worcestershire sauce. It is delicious! Just add it with the balsamic.

However you would like to make your lasagne, I really think you should try the slow-roast method. It will give a much more meaty, textured and flavoursome lasagne and it will not disappoint!

Epic Lasagne

Ingredients

  • 3.5 Kg combination of pork shoulder and beef brisket
  • 300 ml tomato passata
  • 3 glasses of red wine
  • sea salt flakes
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 1 large head of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 200 g smoked lardons
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 400 g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 100 g parmesan, plus more for scattering over lasagnes
  • 100 g gruyere
  • 200 g butter
  • 160 g plain flour
  • 2 L milk
  • half a nutmeg, finely grated or half a tsp of powdered nutmeg
  • dried lasagne sheets
  • 2 balls of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 large bunch of fresh basil leaves

Instructions

  1. Place your joints of meat in separate roasting trays. Trim off excess fat from the pork. Pour a glass of red wine over each joint followed by the passata and a good seasoning of sea salt flakes. Roast both joints concurrently at 170 degrees celsius for 2 hours per Kg, so if you use 1 Kg of pork and 2 Kg of beef, take the pork out after 2 hours and the beef after 4.
  2. In a food processor, chop up the celery, carrots, onion and garlic.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the lardons. Fry for a few minutes until they are starting to crispen and add your chopped veg. Stir and clamp the lid on and allow to sweat for 10 minutes over a medium-low heat.
  4. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes followed by about half a tin of water and stir.
  5. Add about a teaspoon of sea salt flakes followed by the remaining glass of red wine. Stir and allow the sauce to come to the boil. Clamp the lid on, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for half an hour before turning the heat off completely.
  6. Take out your joints of meat when the are ready respectively and carve or shred into small pieces and add to the tomato sauce and mix in well.
  7. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a pot and mix in the flour until it forms a paste. Cook for a few minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
  8. Add the milk in 3 batches, whisking it into the flour/butter roux.
  9. Whisk in the nutmeg followed by about a tsp of sea salt flakes and the grated parmesan and gruyere. Stir until melted and combined and allow to thicken over a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  10. To assemble the lasagnes, add a little of the white sauce each tray, about a ladles worth, followed by a layer of the thick and chunky ragu.
  11. Press a layer of raw lasagne sheets into the ragu and cover both tray's lasagne sheets with another ladle white sauce.
  12. Slice your mozzarella and add half to each tray followed by sprinkling half the basil leaves over each tray.
  13. Continue layering up the lasagne with layers of ragu, lasagne sheets and b├ęchamel until you reach the tops of both trays and give a final sprinkling of parmesan over each tray.
  14. Bake one now at 180 degrees Celsius for half an hour or leave over night and bake at 180 for 40 minutes until golden.
  15. Once cooled, wrap the second lasagne in tin foil and freeze for some other time. Allow thaw in the fridge overnight and then bake at 180 for 45 minutes or until golden.
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