Before you immediately click away from this recipe because of course you know how to make lasagne, or you may be apologetically shrugging as if to say ‘so sorry Ally but my mum’s recipe for lasagne is unbeatable’, I’m just going to quickly say – you haven’t tried this lasagne.
And I’m also going to place this photo of the most incredible piece of lasagne with three cheeses straight in your eye-line.
Cue me refusing to make eye contact and whistling – who me? You want to see my classic lasagne with three cheeses recipe? Oh go on then! You twisted my arm! (The cheese-porn is a cheap weapon and can convince anyone.)
It’s safe to say lasagne is a family-friendly meal. What is it about lasagne that makes grown-ups transform into over-excited children again? For example, lasagne was genuinely a weekly dinner when I lived with my sister and her boyfriend which we would eat with salad and garlic bread, off our laps in front of Big Little Lies. Now, living with Gaylord, whenever I suggest it as a potential dinner, his eyes light up in delight, and he immediately writes down the ingredients for us to pick up at the supermarket. Talk about enthusiasm.
That heady combination of rich beef ragu and cheesy bechamel, all combined and hidden a crisp crust – it’s enough to make the children inside us run around in crazy circles.
As a result, the internet is already rather full of lasagne recipes!
My style of writing on this old blog might not be that beneficial for SEO, so me adding an other ‘Classic lasagne’ to Google search pages is unlikely to do me any favours. However.
This lasagne is on another level.
What makes this lasagne with three cheeses recipe so special?
He can whip up creative and mouth-watering dinners on just a hunch – that unbelievably delicious prawn, mushroom and whisky spaghetti – or he will fixate on a dish until he has mastered it – falafel, fried chicken burgers, the perfect mayonnaise. I, on the other hand, don’t quite have the same mid-week meal repertoire he does.
Except for this lasagne.
For me the secret isn’t leaving the meat sauce to bubble away to oblivion for hours. I’ve always found the day-long ragu too rich, too savoury.
There’s no red wine, no carrot, celery or bay leaves. I hope I’m not making a mockery of lasagne right now, dear reader.
For this lasagne with three cheeses, there is no definitive secret. Instead there a few ingredients and processes I include which I believe make the finished result taste incredible:
- Rosemary: While I am well-aware there are loads of basil leaves in these photographs, I had an aesthetic in mind and then, after we’d eaten it all, remembered there was no actual basil in the recipe. Instead, the warmth of rosemary is seamlessly interwoven into the ragu’s base of onions and garlic, deepening the flavour.
- Jugfuls of stock: There seems to be a lot of liquid in this recipe, as apart from stock there is also a tin of chopped tomatoes. When the pan of ragu looks like a soup which it will, don’t worry! The liquid evaporates and the beef emerges moist and meltingly tender without needing to lower the heat and cook for hours.
- A controversial choice – Marmite: Before you click away in horror, I’ll just add this isn’t essential! Marmite is ferociously savoury and I like that hit of umami when combined with meat. For me, it’s a yeasty, funky substitute for Worcestershire sauce which you can certainly try instead.
- Parmesan rind: Pile on that umami as that is what parmesan rind is for! Dishes made with tinned tomatoes tend to retain a distinct metallic undertone. This can be eased with spoonfuls of sugar, a splash of vinegar, a long simmer, and also by parmesan rind which then softens in its ragu jacuzzi, giving the finished result a more full-bodied flavour.
- Mozzarella: As you will see, there’s already a lot of cheese in the bechamel sauce. So, I wouldn’t advise you eat this lasagne if you’re on a diet. Especially as there are slices of mozzarella between the layers.
So there you have five reasons to give this lasagne with three cheeses a go. I would never plan to upstage your mum’s recipe, dear reader, but now you’ll have another to add to your repertoire.
Classic lasagne with three cheeses
- 1 onion
- olive oil for cooking
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1 sprig of rosemary finely chopped to amount to 1 full tsp
- 1 tomato
- 500 g ground beef mince
- 1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 400 ml beef stock from a cube
- ½ tsp Marmite (optional!)
- A chunk of parmesan rind
- 8 lasagne sheets (depending on the size of your dish) dried, from a packet
- 1 ball of fresh mozzarella
- Cheese to sprinkle
For the cheese bechamel sauce
- 50 g butter
- 50 g flour
- 500 ml milk
- 1 tsp mild mustard or ½ tsp of spicy mustard
- A pinch of paprika
- 60 g grated white cheese Emmental, Cheddar etc
- 20 g parmesan
- Salt and pepper
- Finely chop the onion and heat some olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and sauté gently for 5 minutes until softened. Add the vinegar and cook for a couple more minutes.
- Chop the tomato into small pieces and crush the garlic. Finely chop the rosemary leaves. Add the garlic and rosemary, along with some salt to the onions and cook for a minute, before tipping in the tomato pieces. Stir to combine all the flavours and cook gently, lowering the heat to prevent the garlic from burning.
- Once the tomato is softened, add the beef mince. Season generously with salt and pepper, then break it up with your wooden spoon or spatula. The beef will give off a lot of water (depending on its quality!) so turn the heat up high to brown it all and to cook off the excess liquid.
- Dissolve the beef stock cube in 400ml hot water and add the ½ tsp Marmite (if you want to!). Stir to dissolve in the hot water.
- Once the beef is brown all over and combined with all the other ingredients in the pan, pour in the tinned tomatoes. Pour some of the stock into the empty tomato can to clean it. Empty it into the pan of ragu, then add a little more stock to the pan. It will appear quite full and a bit like beef soup, but that's ok, keep the heat on medium/medium-low and the liquid will gradually simmer and reduce.
- Season with salt and pepper, and add the chunk of parmesan rind. Leave to simmer uncovered while you make the cheese sauce.
- Now, it's time for the bechamel. Put the flour and butter in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Once the butter has melted stir it into the flour to create a thick roux. Cook it for a minute then remove from the heat.
- Pour in a splash of milk. It will sizzle but stir it into the roux and repeat slowly and gently, using a whisk to beat so each addition is smooth and creamy, until all the milk is incorporated. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to the boil. Bubbles should appear on the surface and continue to stir to stop it from catching on the bottom of the pan.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes as it thickens then season with salt and pepper. Add the mustard and paprika and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese and grated parmesan. It will immediately thicken further and become stringy but that's because there's a tonne of cheese in there! If it's too thick, add a splash more milk.
- Meanwhile, the beef sauce will have thickened so add the remaining stock, stir and leave to bubble and reduce. Once tender and moist and everything in the pan is combined, taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Turn off the heat and remove those pieces of parmesan rind.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F. In a baking dish, ladle out a big spoonful of beef and smooth it down. It should be quite a thin layer. Top with lasagne sheets, then a big scoop of bechamel. Smooth it over the pasta then top with a few torn pieces of mozzarella and a grating of one of your cheeses.
- Repeat this until you have four layers. You should have finished the mozzarella before you reach the top layer. Don't save any for the top as it won't create the same stringy texture once it's been grilled for a long time.
- Smooth the bechamel over the top and sprinkle with a little cheese. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Check on the lasagne and if it's bubbling and the topping is looking blistered and gold, turn on the grill to char the surface. Grill for 5 to 10 minutes and keep your eye on it.
- Remove from the oven, slice into big pieces and serve with salad and garlic bread.