I had tasted Lasagne like a million years ago (10 yrs to be precise) in a small Italian joint on Richmond Road, Bangalore - it was divine! As the years rolled by all I could remember was the rich white sauce and the layers, but nothing more than that. If you asked me to recreate the magic, I'd probably fall flat on my face. Since 2011 has been dedicated (by me) to try out all types of cuisines in a bid to improvise on my cooking skills & also bring some new flavours to the table, I asked my dear friend Jen for one of her Italian recipes - pat came her reply! Lasagne! To make things easy for me, she even dropped in to my kitchen to show me how exactly it's done - how sweet is that? Bless her! In a time & age when Youtube pretty much teaches you everything from sewing a button to folding a t-shirt & what not, making Lasagne seemed still a challenge to me although I could have browsed a few videos online - the personal touch of a personal tutor is something else. So I watched her as she made the Lasagne (the first time around) in a jiffy! It tasted awesome and was an instant hit with baby boy but sadly hubby dearest was travelling & couldnt taste it. I decided to wait for a week before I made it again. This time around I replaced the chicken cocktail sausages with some chicken kheema knowing that my little one simply loves it.
Making Lasagne (also spelled as Lasagna) is not rocket science - just make sure you have a couple of hours on your hands and are prepared to see a whole lot of dishes in the sink :-) Pretty much like a marathon Biryani session!
The crumbling effect! The layers of a lasagne when it just falls apart :)
Lasagne (With Spinach, Mushrooms & Chicken)
Recipe Source: My friend Jen
For the Red (Tomato) Sauce:
- 200gms chicken mince OR 1 medium size can of chicken/pork cocktail sausages
- 1 bunch spinach (palak)
- 1 pack of button mushrooms (abt 15-20) sliced (I totally enjoy slicing mushrooms - find this very therapeutic :-)
- 4-5 lasagne sheets
- 100gms Parmesan/cheddar cheese (you can grate as much cheese as you like per layer or use this just for the top surface)
- 100gms mozzarella cheese (you will require sufficient mozzarella cheese for the layers - use as much as you wish if you prefer a 'cheesy' lasagne)
For the White (Bechamel) Sauce:
- 3 large tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato paste (Godrej/Dabur Hommade/Lacnor)
- 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 tsp pepper powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1-2 tsp paprika (chilli flakes)
- 1/4 tsp rosemary (or any dried herb)
- 1/4 tsp thyme (or any dried herb)
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
- Salt to taste
- olive oil
To make the red sauce:
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tbsp flour (maida)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
- 1/2 tsp pepper powder
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
1. Place some water in a small pan & bring it to a boil. Add the tomatoes & blanch them well (for about 7-8minutes). Remove and place in cold water & peel off the skin. Make a puree out of it using a fork or a masher. Set aside.
2. In a large pan/wok heat some olive oil and fry the chopped onions till pale. Toss in the chopped garlic, stir for a few seconds & then add the pureed tomatoes, tomato ketchup & paste & cook for 2mins till oil leaves the sides.
3. Toss in the pepper powder, paprika, oregano and the herbs. Stir & cook for 1 minute
4. Add the sliced mushrooms, stir well, cover & cook for about 5minutes, stirring every now & then. They should appear limp but not mushy.
Red Sauce with Mushrooms
To make the white sauce:
1. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg powder) in a bowl & add the milk to it and mix well to avoid any lumps.
2. Heat a wide wok/pan and add the butter, when it melts add the milk+flour mixture and cook on slow flame for about 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid lumps. Your sauce is done
3. To this sauce you can add precooked (boiled) chicken mince like I did for this recipe.
4. You can either add preboiled spinach to this sauce or use the spinach by itself during the layering
To prepare the lasagne sheets:
1. In a wide pan take sufficient water (about 6-7 cups) and bring it to a boil. Alternatively cut the sheets to the length that fits your baking dish.
2. When the water boils, add some salt and drop the sheets one by one. Give it a stir. Cook for about 3-4 minutes till 90% done
2. Drain & refresh with cold water, add a drop of oil to the water & stir gently to ensure the sheets do not stick to each other. You can leave them in the cold water or remove each sheet & place them on separate plates - be careful not to tear them (I left my sheets in the water - the first time around they were perfect, the second time they tore a bit because I missed to stir them in the cold water)
For the layering:
1. Take a square/rectangular baking dish (glass dish looks nice & fancy, but any thick bakeware will do) and place the first layer of cooked lasagne sheets. My dish was square - the only one small enough to fit into my tiny oven. I used two sheets per layer - side by side, but not necessarily two whole sheets as each sheet had to be cut to fit the length so I made use of the snipped off ends - so you see, no wastage in that department!
2. Spread some red sauce nicely over the first layer and grate some parmesan cheese over it - you can grate as much cheese as you like per layer.
3. Next, place two more sheets - this is your second layer. Spread the boiled spinach (if you have not added it to the white sauce). Grate some more cheese.
4. Place two more sheets - this is your third layer. Spread the white sauce. Grate the cheese
5. Repeat layering process till all your sauces/sheets are exhausted.
6. The top layer will not have any sauce - you can just grate a lot of cheddar cheese here.
Tip: Once you are done with the layering, you can place the dish in the fridge if you plan to bake it later. Always bake your lasagne 15-20 minutes before you are ready to serve. It is best enjoyed when it is fresh from the oven & piping hot.
7. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes till the cheese on top melts & dribbles into the lasagne
8. Remove from oven, cut into thick chunks & serve carefully to ensure that the layers don't topple over.