Oh, I do love a good lasagne. Oftimes we will sto ourselves from making it as it can be a somewhat complicated dish, but this simple lasagne can be whiped u any time and what I love most about it is the simplicity of flavours. A simple tomato sauce, layered with bechamel and cheese . . . amongst sheets of pasta, and baked until golden. It is so good. And it is the simplicity of the flavours which make it even more delicious.
I like to use the ready made sheets of fresh lasagne that you can buy. Over here in the UK, they are about the size of my lasagna dish, so I just lay them in the dish with no faffing about. In North America or if you are using dried pasta, you may have to semi cook it first.
When I had a growing family nobody had even contemplated the idea of using fresh pasta, or making your own pasta. Nowadays its considered quite normal to do both of those things. We have come a long, long way.
You don't miss having any meat in this dish at all. The richness of that luxurious bechamel more than makes up for any lack . . . and the tomato sauce . . . simple and yet sublime.
It goes almost without saying that when the tomato is going to be the star of the dish you will want to use a really good Italian Tinned Tomato.
I love Cirio Chopped Tomatoes, authentically Italian, right to their core. You can almost taste that warm Italian sunshine. They are so delicious I cannot resist eating a spoonful each time I open a tin. (Don't judge me. We all have our weaknesses and this is one of mine!)
The sauce is quite simple . . . just tinned tomatoes, infused garlic olive oil, basil and seasoning, simmered together until all of the flavours have melded beautifully together. You could not ask for a nicer dish. Of course you can make some additions as per your own preferences . . . some cheese, perhaps a dollop or two of pesto, wilted spinach . . . but I like to keep it simple. Why mess with perfection?? With some garlic bread and a salad on the side, this is truly Divine.
*Tomato Lasagne*Serves 6 to 8
This is simple, uncomplicated, straightforward and delicious. A delicious tomato sauce, with some cheese, lasagna sheets and a good bechamel. You can dress it up by adding some different cheeses, such as goat's cheese, or a few dollops of pesto, or some grilled vegetables between the layers. What you have here is a canvas to write your own story upon . . .
For the Tomato Sauce:
2 TBS good quality olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed slightly
3 14-oz tins of chopped tomatoes in their own juice
(I like to use a good Italian brand)
about a dozen or so torn basil leaves
salt and black pepper to taste
For the Bechamel:
125g butter (1/2 cup)
85g plain flour (1/2 cup plus 2 TBS)
2 pints of whole milk, warmed (5 cups)
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste
12 ounces of fresh lasagne sheets
85g freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (3 ounces)
170g grated mozarella or a mixture of mozarella, cheddar, fontina, etc. (6 ounces)
(In other words which cheese you are in the mood to eat, or what you have on hand)
butter to dot or additional Parmesan to sprinkle (optional)
For the sauce, place the oil in a saucepan and heat it til fairly warm. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes quite fragrant. Add the tomatoes and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or so until it resembled a sauce. Add the basil and 1 cup of hot water towards the end of the cooking time. Puree until smooth with a stick blender, or very carefully in a regular blender. (You can either leave the garlic in, or remove it as you wish.) Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt and some pepper if required.
To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a saucepan and then whisk in the flour. Cook for several minutes over low heat and then slowly whisk in the warm milk. Cook and stir until the sauce thickens and is smooth. Season with salt, pepper and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or so on low heat, until you have a very thick and smooth sauce. Set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a deep 8 1/2 by 12 inch baking dish. Drizzle the bottom with some of the bechamel. Put a slightly overlapping layer of the lasagne sheets over the bechamel. Dollop with some of the tomato sauce, spreading it out. Dollop another two hefty spoonfuls of bechamel over top and then a layer of the cheeses. Add another layer of lasagne, and then repeat with the tomato, bechamel and cheese as before, and then again, repeating the layers one more time, finishing with a final layer of lasagne and a few tablespoons of tomato sauce and a good portion of bechamel. You can sprinkle with some additional parmesan cheese if you desire, or dot with some butter. Place in the heated oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until it is bubbling and golden brown on top. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.