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A metaphorical food hug

Oh yay, it’s spending-hours-on-the-fleece-lined-section-of-the-Uniqlo-website time of year.

It’s a bit earlier than usual, but it means we can also bring out this week’s recipe for the ultimate comfort food: four cheese lasagna.

This week’s album
Without Fear by Dermot Kennedy

A really powerful album delivered with passion and an incredible voice. I saw Kennedy perform in London and the live show was just as personal and honest as this recording. His songs are like an internal monologue, with his voice ranging from a fragile whisper to a potent roar to deliver the stories being told.

An Italian classic

No need for a deep-dive history lesson this week, except to say… Our recipe closely resembles ‘lasagna al forno’ from the northern region of Emilia Romagna. This means the lasagne is baked in the oven and contains a pork/beef ragù and parmesan.

A lot of pasta dishes can be ruined by excessive amounts of cheese which cover up the taste of the sauce and what the dish is really about. Lasagna is the exception, hence us adding three additional cheeses.

1. Ricotta - which is used in the traditional lasagnas of Naples.

2. Scamorza - essentially a smoked and dried mozzarella that will add great flavour and texture.

Scamorza is available in large supermarkets and good delis but, if you can’t find it, you can sub in extra mozzarella.

3. Mozzarella - no intro needed.

Making lasagna can be time-consuming but it’s totally worth it.

When I worked in Italy, one of the chef’s Mums would make us a lasagne every Saturday and drop it at the restaurant before dinner service (true story - Italian Mums really worry about whether their kids are eating enough).

If you don’t have a kind Italian Mum to hand then I’d recommend making an extra large lasagna. That way you can enjoy a fresh bit this week and freeze the rest for a later date.

What you need

The below serves 6-8. It takes 30 mins to prep and 4 hours to cook (most of that is hands-off time).

500g beef mince (15% fat or similar)

500g pork mince (15% fat or similar)

2 tbsps olive oil

100g unsalted butter

1 medium onion (finely diced)

1 carrot (finely diced)

2 sticks celery (finely diced)

175ml red wine

800g tinned tomatoes (best quality)

1l stock or water

750ml whole milk

50g flour

250g ricotta

450g dried lasagna sheets

200g parmesan (finely grated)

250g mozzarella (chopped into small cubes)

250g scamorza (chopped into small cubes)

Sea salt & black pepper

Ready, steady, cook

1. Place a large thick-bottomed saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add a glug of olive oil and the minced beef and pork to the pot. Cook until all the liquid from the meat has evaporated, then add a good pinch of salt and continue to cook, stirring regularly, until nicely browned. Once done, transfer the meat to a bowl and set aside.

NOTE: you develop flavour by colouring the meat. Don’t worry about the water that comes out. Once this has evaporated, the colour will start to develop.

2. Put the butter in the same pan and place over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and a pinch of salt and cook until very soft and translucent.

NOTE: By adding salt to the veg now, not only are we seasoning each step, but it will help to draw out the water content which means the veg doesn't burn or ‘catch’.

3. Return the meat to the pan, turn up the heat, and pour in the red wine. Cook over a high heat for 2 mins or until the wine no longer tastes of alcohol.

4. Put in your chopped tomatoes, 150ml of whole milk, and water or stock (a chicken or beef stock cube is absolutely fine). Turn the heat down to low. This is now your ragù.

5. Pop a lid on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar, and let the ragù simmer very gently for at least 3 hours (ideally 6 hours, basically the longer the better). 

NOTE: doing this evaporates the water, rehydrates the meat, and intensifies the flavour. If you're cooking it for longer and need to add a little water along the way then go for it. However, your end result should be ‘sauce-y’ and not watery. The longer the cooking time, the more tender your meat will be.

6. While the ragù cooks you can prep everything else… Put a large pan of salted water on a high heat. Add a good glug of olive oil to the water and then cook the lasagna sheets in two batches for 7-8 mins (basically a couple of mins less than the packet suggests).

NOTE: cooking lasagna sheets is the only time you should ever add olive oil to pasta-water.

7. When they’re ready, use tongs to transfer the sheets to a bowl of iced water. When cool, transfer to a clean tea towel to slightly dry.

8. For your béchamel sauce, melt 50g of butter in a saucepan over a medium-low heat. Once melted, add 50g of flour and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine using a whisk, then leave to cook for 5 mins on a low heat. 

9. Slowly add the remaining 600ml of milk (to avoid lumps forming, do this bit by bit so you combine the milk completely after each addition). Once your béchamel is smooth, add in the ricotta and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

10. When your ragù is done and you’re ready to assemble the lasagna…

Preheat your oven to 200°c/180°c fan. Lightly oil a large ovenproof dish and add a thin layer of the ricotta béchamel. 

Spread it out, then add a layer of lasagna sheets (cutting any pieces as necessary to fit your dish). Spoon over a layer of the ragù and drizzle over some of the béchamel, sprinkle with Parmesan, and dot over the pieces of scamorza and mozzarella.

Now repeat these steps (pasta, ragù, béchamel, parmesan, scamorza and mozzarella) until the final layer which should be one of pasta topped with everything except the ragù.

NOTE: make sure you save enough béchamel to completely cover your final layer of pasta.

11. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for a further 15 mins. Remove from the oven and let the lasagna rest for 10-15 mins before serving.

Final thought

Want to see all Eat My Words recipes in one place? Thought you did. Head to the website here and start scanning.

Enjoy your time in the kitchen,


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Eat My Words · Kew Gardens · Kew, TW9 · United Kingdom

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