Everybody’s got a lasagne recipe. Everybody. Even the shakiest of Kitchen-phobes somewhere in the depths of their culinary cranium, have a lasagne recipe. I often hear people who aren’t the most confident of cooks punctuate their anti-Kitchen confessions with ‘But I do make a good lasagne!’. And I’m not mad at this. I think so long as you have one reliable recipe in your head, then why not bring it out at every opportunity?
Having said this, I don’t have the patience for a traditional lasagne. My nerves just can’t cope with it of an evening. Making a white sauce and a meat sauce, and the layering and the oven and all the nonsense – it genuinely is too much for me. But a good lasagne reminds me of my mother’s cooking – who had did a great lasagne that seemed to feed us for a whole month on the Kitchen countertop. In fact just last week she visited my apartment with a Tupperware box of lasagne for me to feast on. So in honour’s sake, I could not discard a lasagne in my armoury for the sake of my idleness. So I did some research.
Lasagne – which roughly translates to ‘mixed up’ – in all of its multi layered glory, has a multitude of variations in regional Italian cooking with ingredients that range from boiled eggs to spinach. However, modern day Italian kitchens – particularly those in Southern Central Italy – unified themselves with more contemporary ingredients such as mozzarella to revolutionise their traditional lasagnes. This approach is exactly what I love about cooking. Taking tradition and acclimating it to your own life. Naturally there are certain steps that need to be adhered too – however the odd adjustment can easily make a meal your own.
Therefore I came up with a Lazyagne, the lazy cooks approach to a lasagne. It has the meaty depth and the gooey texture of a traditional lasagne in half the time and half the stress. It swaps a white sauce for some oozy mozzarella balls and the meat sauce is only a few quick ingredients. It’s also worth noting that in some regions of Italy, they use bacon instead of ham in their layers. However, as we all know, heating up a lasagne the next day can sometimes taste better than fresh – but rashers of bacon do not reheat that nicely, so I have swapped this for pack ham. I feel no shame in these swaps – it’s what regional cooking is all about!
Preheat the oven to 200C. Roughly chop a red onion and fry it up in a deep pan before mincing in some garlic. Once softened, tip in the ground beef mince and break it up with a spoon until it starts to brown. Add some salt and some freshly ground black pepper before pouring in a small cup of red wine, a whole jar of passata and a quick dash of water. Bring this to a bubble before adding some Worcestershire sauce and dropping to a simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Roughly chop up some mozzarella balls (I find 2 is enough, 3 is preferable) and leave to one side. Grab a roasting dish (about 2 inches or so in depth), and ladle in enough meat sauce to cover the bottom. On top of this, add some lasagne sheets, pressing down on them gently so that some of the sauce sneaks upwards to the surface of the sheet. Add another – yet sparing – layer of meat sauce. Now add a layer of ham slices and some mozzarella chunks. Add some pasta sheets to the top of this before layering on some more meat sauce, pushing down with your spoon or ladle to make the meat sauce plunge upwards and slightly cover the top layer.
Repeat the same pattern – ham/cheese/pasta sheets/meat sauce until you have used all of the meat sauce up but remember, the meat sauce should always be the last layer otherwise your pasta sheets will burn. Now add some cheese to the top – my preferred cheese here is some Oaked Smoked Cheddar – but any cheese will do. Cover the tray in foil and slide in the hot oven for 50 minutes before removing the foil and returning to the oven for a further 15 until the top layer has scrunched up like an meaty Autumn leaf.
This Lazyagne stays faithful to the fundamental ABCs of lasagne constructing but has enough mixes of regional approaches to make it an extremely tasty yet maintains an almost embarrassingly easy method to cook. Omitting the white sauce in favour of melting mozzarella, a new addition to Italian lasagnes, cuts your cooking time down immensely and also saves you extra washing up!
Like I said, a recipe called Lazyagne is going to be cutting corners and they are corners I urge you to feel no shame in cutting!