My father keeps complaining that I never make my special dishes when he and my mom are around or are visiting us. Every time I try out a new dish I send them a picture of the final dish just to tease my dad. 🙂 So this time when I sent him a picture of the couscous pulao that I tried recently he immediately sent me a text saying that I ‘better stock up to prepare all those exotic dishes’ once they arrive home! He he!
The last time I’d gone to my parent’s place I’d made Lasagna for everyone at home and my dad has been asking me to make it for him again for a very long time now. So this time when they visited, the first dish that I decided to make for dad was Lasagna. Now Lasagna is a great comfort food………….well not of the nostalgic kind but simply of the indulgent kind!!! Anything with cheese……….lots and lots of gooey gooey cheese gives me great comfort. 😉 I love double cheese pizzas, cheesy pastas, cheese enchiladas, mac and cheese, cheesy baked vegetables (now those are some awesome dishes and I’ll soon be trying out some and putting up the recipes) and pretty much anything with a whole lot of cheese on it!! And since we are on the topic of comfort food…..I’ve got to tell you that I also love anything with lots of butter in it…..umm..just in case you wanted to know. 🙂 So getting back to the Lasagna…here goes the recipe:
For the Lasagna and its Filling:
About 250 gms Lasagna Sheets (These sheets are readily available in the market. Now don’t fret when i say “250 gms of Lasagna sheets”. It should be anywhere between 9-12 sheets of lasagna or enough sheets to make 3 layers in a rectangular baking dish.)
3 spring onions, chopped up
3 ripe medium sized tomatoes chopped
1 medium carrot diced
A handful of green beans chopped
1 cup of mushrooms chopped
For those of you who do not like too many veggies in your dish, you can stop here. For those who are willing to risk it…you can add the veggies mentioned below too!! I did, and the lasagna turned out just fine!! 🙂
1 small capsicum chopped
Half a yellow bell pepper chopped
Half a red bell pepper chopped
1 small broccoli chopped up
2 tbsps Olive Oil
1 cup of stock (vegetable or chicken stock cubes do the trick)
1 cup of grape juice (red wine should be ideal if you have it at home!)
2-3 tbsps of store bought tomato puree
Parmesan or other processed cheese
500 gms minced meat (this is for those of you who’d like to try the non vegetarian lasagna….though please do remember to reduce the quantity of veggies that you use)
For the Bechamel Sauce (nothing but white sauce…..I just like to use the more exotic nomenclature 🙂):
2 1/2 cups milk
Half a small onion sliced
1 bay leaf (tej patta)
2 1/2 tbsps flour (maida)
2-3 tbsps butter
A pinch of nutmeg powder (jaiphal)
Preparing the lasagna sheets
First and foremost you need to get your Lasagna sheets ready. Like you cook any other pasta, Lasagna sheets need to be cooked in salted boiling water until they are al dente (Look up my post with the Farfalle and pesto sauce recipe to know what is al dente.) Don’t go by what the pack may say about placing them as it is into the baking dish. I did that the first time and my sheets didn’t cook properly. I had uncooked sheets in my lasagna. Cooking the sheets also ensures that your final lasagna turns out really soft and gooey. 🙂 Once cooked al dente immediately immerse the sheets into cold water. Make sure that you keep the sheets separate, or else they may end up sticking to each other!!
Making the Bechamel Sauce:
Add the bay leaf, peppercorns, sliced onions to the milk and bring to a boil. Switch off and let the milk cool. Strain it and keep milk aside. Heat the butter in a pan and slowly start adding the flour to it one bit at a time, while stirring continuously. Make sure its just a bit at a time or else the consistency will not be right. Keep adding flour and stirring continuously. Switch off the gas and then start adding the milk to this mixture and again keep stirring. Add very little milk at a time or the flour mixture will not dissolve well. Keep stirring until the flour has dissolved completely. Now get the pan back on the stove on a low flame and keep stirring the sauce until it thickens in consistency. Once done, switch off and add the nutmeg powder to it. Your Bechamel sauce is ready!
For the Filling:
Simply heat the olive oil. Add the onions and fry until they turn translucent. Add the beans and carrots and fry for a minute. Add the green, red and yellow bell peppers now and again fry for a minute. If you are using the minced meat then this is when you need to add it along with the chopped tomatoes and fry the meat until its colour changes to a light brown. Add the puree, stock, grape juice, salt and stir well and wait for the filling to start bubbling. Check seasoning. I always add a little extra salt to the filling. If not, your final dish may end up a little bland with all the pasta and the white sauce.
How to lay the lasagna:
Take a rectangular greased baking dish and first spoon in the filling to create a layer at the bottom of the dish. Now lay the lasagna sheets on top of this layer. Pour the Bechamel sauce over the lasagna sheets and repeat with the filling, then sheet and the sauce over it, until you have about 3 layers of filling, sheet and Bechamel sauce. The last layer on top should be of Bechamel sauce. Grate a generous amount of cheese, Parmesan or your standard pizza cheese, over the top and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Centigrade for about 30 minutes or until you see the top layer of cheese all brown and bubbling.
Lasagna is great as a one dish meal. It tastes yum and almost everyone likes it. Plus, you have the option to make it vegetarian or non-vegetarian. I like to add a lot of veggies because its a sure shot way to get in as many veggies as possible into my daughter’s tummy….all camouflaged under the lasagna and the cheese…..of course since we are non-vegetarians anything that has non-veg in it goes down well with my li’l one!! 🙂
Enjoy your Lasagna!!