• Lasagne sheets
  • Butter
  • Plain flour
  • Milk
  • Parmesan or, if possible, the creamier Grana¬†Padano cheese, grated
  • Beef mince
  • OR, a vegetable mixture (can include lentils)
  • OR, for the best ever: half mince and half a finely chopped and sauted mixture of celery, red pepper and onions, plus sliced shitake mushrooms added at the last minute
  • Tomato puree
  • Your choice of garlic, herbs, chilli mix, salt, pepper, maybe shoyu
  • Tomatoes or better still, cherry tomatoes, sliced or halved
  • Cheddar cheese, grated (optional – and actually I think it is better without)

A really useful thing about this is that you can assemble everything in advance and then put in the oven much later. But when you are ready to cook it, pre-heat oven to 180 fan.

First choose the dish you are going to use – something square or rectangular. There will be three layers of pasta sheets – work out how many you sheets you will need. Then put the sheets in cold water and leave them to soak while you are preparing the other things. Move them around a couple of times so that they don’t stick together.

Make up the meat or vegetable filling. It should be quite intense. If using meat, fry it up with some garlic, and maybe some dried or fresh mushrooms. Sometimes I add a bit of diced carrot, celery or onion but not too much as you need to keep the flavour strong. Add a good squeeze of tomato puree, salt and pepper and any herbs you like. You do need the salt, as the pasta itself doesn’t get salted.

If doing a veg version dark lentils like puy are a good base. Red could also work but might be a bit mushy. Cut vegetable elements really small and fry it all up – include garlic. Add tomato puree and seasoning as above – plus shoyu to give a more intense flavour.

Then make the white sauce. You need quite a lot – I’ll try to do measurements some time. It must be about 200 ml of sauce per serving. Making white sauce is easier if you pre-heat the milk – it mixes in much more easily. Add grated parmesan cheese to the sauce – not too much, it’s more to give richness of flavour than to make it actually taste cheesy.

Then assemble it all. It goes:

  1. A very thin layer of white sauce on the bottom of the dish, just to stop things sticking.
  2. A layer of pasta sheets. Cut the sheets with scissors or a knife so that you can create a patchwork to cover the whole of the bottom of the dish. Don’t overlap the sheets – they don’t cook well like that.
  3. A layer of meat or veg (use half of what you have)
  4. A dribble of white sauce (use a quarter of what you have left)
  5. A layer of pasta sheets
  6. A layer of meat or veg – all the rest
  7. A dribble of white sauce – the same amount as before
  8. A layer of pasta sheets
  9. All the rest of the white sauce to cover up all of the pasta
  10. Slices of tomato across the top
  11. Grated cheddar cheese on top of the tomato (although if I’m using cherry tomatoes I tend to do it the other way around).

Cook in the oven for about 35 mins. Towards the end you can grill it to make the top brown nicely.

Serve with salad or veg.

If you find that it doesn’t hold together, make the white sauce a bit thicker next time.