60 ml(¼ cup) olive oil150 gmpancetta, finely chopped2stalks of celery with leaves, finely chopped2onions, finely chopped1small carrot, finely chopped3cloves of garlic, finely chopped500 gmeach of minced veal and pork50 gm(2 tbsp) tomato paste125 ml(½ cup) dry white wine1400gm can whole tomatoes250 ml(1 cup) beef stock60 ml(¼ cup) balsamic vinegar80 gm(1 cup) finely grated parmesanBesciamella 1.5 litres(6 cups) milk1onion, cut into wedges1clove of garlic, halved1 tspcloves2fresh bay leaves120 gmbutter, coarsely chopped120 gmplain flour½ tspfreshly ground nutmeg, or to tastePasta (see note)150 gm(1 cup) plain flour55 gm (1/3 cup)coarse semolina, plus extra for dusting2eggs
For pasta, using a food processor, pulse flour, semolina and 1 tsp of sea salt until combined. With motor running, add eggs and process mixture until it just comes together (if necessary, add 1 to 2 tsp of cold water). Turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth (about 5-10 mins). Wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate for up to 3 hours.
Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, add pancetta, celery, onion, carrot and garlic and cook until soft (10-12 minutes), season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add combined mince and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until brown (5-7 minutes). Add tomato paste, stir to combine, add wine and cook until evaporated (1-2 minutes). Add tomatoes, stock and vinegar and season to taste. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until sauce is thick (1 hour 15 minutes). Keep warm.
For besciamella, combine milk, onion, garlic, cloves and bay leaves in a saucepan, bring to the boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and keep warm. Melt butter in a separate heavy-based saucepan, add flour and stir over medium heat until combined and starting to colour (1-2 minutes) then remove from heat and gradually whisk in milk until well combined and smooth. Return pan to low heat and cook, stirring, until sauce thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon (10-15 minutes). Season to taste with nutmeg, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm.
Using a pasta machine with rollers set at the widest setting, feed through half the pasta dough. Fold in half lengthways, feed through again, repeat, reducing settings notch by notch, feeding and rolling until 2mm thick. Repeat with remaining half and place onto a tray between sheets of baking paper.
Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 2 litre-capacity ovenproof dish. Spread one third of meat sauce over base, spread over one third of besciamella, scatter with quarter of a cup of parmesan. Top with three overlapping pasta sheets, trimmed to fit. Repeat twice, finishing with besciamella, and scatter with remaining parmesan, then bake until golden (25-30 minutes). Stand for 10 minutes, then serve.
Note This dish may be assembled the day before, refrigerated then cooked as per recipe. Fresh or dried pasta sheets may be substituted for making your own.
“I’ve never met a lasagne I didn’t like”, declared Garfield, the comic-strip cat, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d disagree with the chubby talking tabby. One of Italy’s most popular culinary exports, the word ‘lasagne’ derives from the Latin word ‘lasanum’ meaning cooking pot but the term has now come to describe the dish itself, which is typically made with sheets of wide pasta, layered with a savoury mixture and baked in the oven. Everyone has their favourite lasagne recipe and there are many variations on the theme. Lasagne can be also be made with vegetables or seafood, and as testimony to its wide-ranging appeal, there’s even a Mexican version that features chillies and layers of corn tortillas instead of pasta. But, however you like to make or eat it, there’s just something about lasagne that exudes the Italian qualities of warmth and hospitality, and makes you feel instantly at home – wherever you happen to be.