Lasagne is the “world’s most perfect food” according to Garfield, and we must say we agree with him.
Simple, filling and oh-so delicious lasagne is a staple comfort food across the world. The two spellings, 'lasagne' and 'lasagna' can be confusing, but the only difference is that 'lasagna' is singular, referring to only one sheet of pasta, while 'lasagne' refers to several. Both are now in common usage to describe the dish.
There are several stories to explain the origins of lasagne; one runs all the way back to the ancient Greeks. When the Romans occupied Greek territory in the second century BC they set about adopting local food and culture, including laganon, a flat dough sliced into strips that was probably the origin of the word lasagne. The pasta then evolved at the hands of the Romans and then Italians, into the dish that we know and love today.
Another theory is that the word lasagne comes from the Latin lasanum, meaning ‘cooking pot’.
What is definitely known is that lasagne as we know it began in the Italian city of Naples. The traditional Neapolitan lasagne, lasagne alla Napoletana, is a little different and a bit more complicated than our recipes below: local sausage and small fried meatballs are layered with hard-boiled eggs, ricotta and a mozzarella-like cheese called scamorza, with a thick sauce made from onions, carrots, tomatoes and finely ground beef and pork.
Nowadays lasagne has converted into an internationally loved dish, and thousands of varieties have sprung up. You can find recipes for vegetarian lasagne, vegan lasagne and even a student-perfect lasagne that you can cook without an oven. See below to get your mouth watering and your culinary senses tingling.
No-bake vegetarian lasagne
6 sheets of fresh lasagne
½ tablespoon olive oil
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
350g tub tomato and basil sauce
125g ricotta cheese
2 sprigs of basil, shredded
Cook the lasagne in boiling water for 4-5 minutes until tender, then drain
Meanwhile, heat the oil and fry the tomatoes for 2-3 minutes until softened. Heat the sauce in a pan. Microwave the ricotta for one minute to warm through.
Spread a little sauce over the base of two large plates and top each with one sheet of lasagne. Divide both the ricotta and the tomatoes into quarters and dot one quarter over each sheet. Then spoon over some sauce and add another layer of lasagne at a slight angle.
Repeat the layers, finishing with a little sauce on top of the final layer of lasagne.
Garnish with the basil.
Easy-peasy beef lasagne
1kg minced beef
1 clove garlic
1 400g tin of tomatoes
250g dried lasagne sheets
150g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon salted butter
500ml semi-skimmed milk
Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
Finely chop the onion.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large casserole pan on a medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and fry for 2 minutes while you peel and chop the carrot and garlic. Stir regularly.
Add the chopped carrot to the pan and fry for 2 minutes, still stirring regularly.
Add the garlic and minced beef to the pan. Fry until beef begins to brown.
Add tinned tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt, stir thoroughly and move to a low heat while you make the white sauce.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick pan over a low heat.
Once melted, add the flour and stir.
Add four tablespoons of milk, one at a time. After each spoonful stir thoroughly over the heat to ensure your sauce is smooth.
Add 50g of the cheese and stir until melted in.
Continue adding milk, one tablespoon at a time until you’re happy with the consistency of the sauce – try dipping a spoon in and then letting the sauce drip back into the pan. It should drip quickly but leave a residue on the spoon.
Spread a small amount of the beef in red sauce in an ovenproof dish – roughly 20cm by 15cm. Then layer the dish with sheets of lasagne, and cover with a layer of white sauce. Repeat this three times, finishing with a layer of white sauce.
Sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.
Remove from the oven and leave to sit for five minutes before serving.
Courgette, spinach & ricotta lasagne
Serves 6 – 8
40g plain flour
750ml semi-skimmed milk
2 x 260g bag spinach, washed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
250g Ricotta Cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 medium courgettes, coarsely grated
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
25g pack fresh basil, chopped
50g pecorino cheese, freshly grated
300g pack fresh lasagne sheets
50g toasted pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 200ºC, gas mark 6. Melt 40g butter in a medium pan, add the flour and cook for a minute, then whisk in the milk. Bring to the boil stirring, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring, to give a thin white sauce. Season well.
Heat the remaining butter in a pan, add the spinach and toss it in the melted butter. Cover the pan and cook until wilted. Boil the spinach quickly to reduce any liquid. Season and add the oregano and nutmeg. Cool and stir in the ricotta.
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the grated courgettes and cook for 5 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and cook for a minute then season well. Stir in the basil and half the pecorino. Season to taste.
Layer up the ingredients in a buttered ovenproof dish starting with a layer of white sauce then lasagne then spinach and courgette then pine nuts. Continue until all the ingredients are used up finishing with white sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining pecorino and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve on warmed plates with a tomato and onion salad.