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Today I’m going to talk lasagne and share with you my perfect lasagne tips. This is such a simple recipe and I’m amazed at how many people won’t attempt it and even if they do attempt it, don’t get it right.

Now there are a few little tricks to think about and I think this is what happens, most people forget that a baked lasagne is very much the same as cooked pasta. In other words, you have to use a lot of liquid. When they make their sauces, they don’t make them runny enough and because of that then the pasta sheets tend to go very very hard and almost rubbery and it’s impossible to actually cut it.So here’s a few hints and tips for making the prefect lasagne. Now first of all lasagne is a compound recipe or what I call a compound recipe. That means it’s a mixture of other recipes. In this particular case, it’s a béchamel sauce which is a melted butter sauce and a Napoletana sauce or a tomato sauce. The Italians call it Napoletana or it’s probably pronounced slightly different than that but that’s the way I pronounce it here in Australia. Then you add things to that.It’s basically a tomato sauce, a very basic tomato sauce. Then you can add things like vegetables to it if you want to make a vegetarian lasagne. You can add seafood to it if you want to make a seafood lasagne or you could add just a mince of some variety, be it chicken or even a pork mince I’ve known some people to do. In fact my mother makes pork mince once all the time and a beef or a lamb. So any of those minces will work. You can do it just like that.

Or you can just use ricotta, fresh ricotta and sprinkle that over instead of actually using any mince at all and then use your tomato sauce and your béchamel sauce. So there are a lot of variations on lasagne. But here is the crux of the success of this recipe. It’s enough liquid in your saucers so that the pasta actually cooks. Now when you normally cook pasta on the stove, you need lots and lots of boiling water for the amount of pasta that you are making. That’s because it absorbs an enormous amount of liquid and that’s what makes it tender or al dente, that’s how we actually describe it. That’s what we want it to be because otherwise it’s not going to be very palatable.

So you have to do the same thing when you make it in the oven. So the key is to make sure that at least your tomato sauce has got perhaps a little more liquid in it than it might have if you were using it for just a tomato sauce. So I tend to add a little bit more liquid to it. I might add another extra fresh tomato into it or I might add some puree tomato or some tin tomato that have been chopped extra.

So I’ve got quite a runny sauce, almost to the point where if you’ve got other ingredients in there whether they be vegetables or mince or whatever, they are almost sort of floating in it. Now you’re probably thinking well how is my lasagne going to stay together. Well I’m going to tell you that in just a moment.

So when you’re doing this, the next trick is to make sure you do several layers. The reason we do that is because the pasta sheets will actually hold your lasagne together. So rather than just doing one layer of pasta, one layer of your mince sauce or whatever you put in your tomato sauce, one layer of béchamel and another layer of pasta, that’s going to fall apart fairly easily when you heat it or cook it and serve it, especially if you serve it fresh which is also another thing I don’t do. But let’s get to that in just a moment.

The key is to make lots of layers and make each one quite thin. So start with a layer of pasta, so your sheets. Now you can use any type of sheets by the way, fresh lasagne sheets that you’ve made yourself, fresh ones that you’ve purchased or you can use dried ones and you can use instant ones. I think most of the ones you purchase now in packets are in fact instant, many that don’t need a lot of time in the oven. However there still is a trick to that as well. We will get to that too.

So whatever pasta sheets you want, one layer of pasta on the bottom. A layer of your tomato sauce with whatever ingredients you put in it that make it relatively thin, a layer of the béchamel sauce. Now here is another thing I do with béchamel, I always add grated tasty cheese to the sauce while it’s cooking on the stove so that when it goes into the pasta, that cheese is going all the way through. I do that rather than sprinkle cheese over that layer before I put the next layer because I find that the flavour is better mixed right through the sauce. So there we have three layers.

Then I repeat another layer of the pasta, another layer of the tomato sauce with everything in it, another layer of the béchamel. Now I will do that five or six times. So I’ll end up having my pasta about this high, so 10 centimeters maybe even a little higher, 10 to 12 centimetres and I make it in a baking tray that’s got high sides in it. The reason I do that is that it looks fantastic when you serve it on the plate the next day or that evening or whatever. That’s another thing, I always make my lasagne a day before and then I serve it the next day.

Or sometimes I’ll just freeze it and package it up into small amounts, one serving size basically because I’m often only doing it for myself. Then I will have these beautiful big pieces where you can see all the layers of all of the different sauces and the pasta in there. It looks great on the plate and your lasagne will hold together because each of those layers of the pasta itself adheres almost to the sauces and they stay in formation. But if you don’t have those pasta sheets there, the whole thing is going to fall apart and there is just going to be this big mess on your plate which doesn’t look great. I mean if you’re just doing it yourself, it’s not a problem really but I certainly like that visual effect.

So I make my lasagne and I make sure I cook it for a good length of time and I make sure my tomato sauce has got lots of liquid in it so I ensure that my pasta sheets are thoroughly cooked. Then once I’ve made it, let it cool and into the fridge, literally just cover it in the container. Don’t even try to cut it up at this point in time. Let it cool down thoroughly. Then if I’m going to be serving it that day, I would make it early in the morning so I end up having it ready for that night. I would then take it out, slice it up into the pieces in my squares, take each one of those out on to a beautiful plate and into the microwave for 60 seconds, that’s enough.

It’s enough to completely heat all the way through but not destroy those layers and not make it fall all over the plate. Now you can pop it back into the oven, the whole thing before you cut it and heat it up that way but my advice is if you are going to do that, and you’re going to serve that whole lasagne on its own, what I would do is cut it up first while its cold, then into the oven, let it heat through, maybe about 15 – 20 minutes, pull that out and then lift those out. You will find that will lift a lot easier if they’ve already been cut beforehand rather than cutting them when it’s all hot because that’s when everything – you sort of as you cut through all of the sauce, you’re pushing on it and it oozes down into the centre of that cut and you end up losing that whole beautiful look.

So cut it first and then do your heating in the oven if you want to go down that track. But my preference always is to cut it up, take each individual lot out, pop that onto the plate, into the microwave for 60 seconds and then serve that up. That doesn’t take very long. If you’re only doing it for eight people, it will stay hot enough because you’ve got the béchamel sauce and the tomato sauce there which both hold heat very very well, tomatoes particularly hold heat really really well. So it will hold its heat for you to serve that with your salad for dinner.

So there’s just a few hints and tips with lasagne. We have got a video coming of how to make lasagne very shortly. So stay tuned for that and I look forward to seeing you again very very soon.

So there you have tips for making the perfect lasagne. I hope you enjoyed that. I hope you enjoy your next lasagne and I’ll see you again next time for the next blog. I’m Victoria Hansen. Bye for now!”

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