When Anthonij Rupert Wyne approached me to create a classic lasagne to pair with their Terra del Capo Sangiovese, I said ‘hell yes!’. For one I absolutely love the wine and two, I haven’t done a classic lasagne recipe on Drizzleanddip in the eight and a half years I’ve been in existence.
I’ve been making lasagne for my entire adult life and aside from the famous vegetarian recipe I published in my first cookbook, its something I never use a recipe for. I make the Bolognese component out of my head and with whatever I have available. There would always be onion and garlic loads of tomato. I would generally add some kind of fresh or dried herb and a decent splash of wine, and cook this for ages to intensify the flavour. The white sauce or béchamel is easy and I would always add nutmeg, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and some kind of cheese.
I set about doing much research for this classic Italian recipe because I felt there was a little pressure. First up was Marcella Hazan’s recipe. The women created the life-changing tomato sauce with butter so I figured she was a good place to start. I also reviewed other famous Italian chefs recipes like Genarro Contaldo, Antonio Carluccio and Giorgio Locatelli. I read Felicity Cloaks article in the Guardian on ‘how to cook a perfect lasagne’ (she always does a thorough comparison between many of the big named cooks & chefs). I glanced at a few videos and peeked at Jamie and Nigella’s versions too before starting to feel overwhelmed. The notion of a classic lasagne seemed so diverse although a few commonalities started to became apparent. There also seemed to be an Italian, British and American version so I think you should just make what you enjoy.
I settled on a combination of what I’d read and what I felt resonated with me in terms of my experience in Italy and Italian restaurants and added a dash of what I loved about lasagne. Whilst adding cheese other than a smattering of Parmesan is controversial, Genarro added two types between each layer and to the béchamel in one of his versions, which I felt, was overwhelmingly cheesy. He also said he loved using Cheddar, so that opened the gates for me to choose the Dalewood Huegenot which is the most delicious mature, hard cheese that leans towards Parmesan and Cheddar without the saltiness and the burn. It also happens to be made around the corner from the Terra del Capo Sangiovese, so from a terroir perspective, I thought they would marry beautifully. I also used the wine in the recipe as well as to drink alongside it.
In most of the classic versions, there was no garlic used and no herbs, just sofrito (onion, carrot and celery), wine and tomatoes. Marcella omits the béchamel and kind of incorporates it in the ragu, which didn’t appeal to me. I like a lot of it so I wasn’t shy with my quantities in this recipe either. My favourite part is when it bubbles up over the edges while baking.
As for the pasta, initially I wanted to make the pasta from scratch but then I had a little laugh and thought how many people will actually want to do that? I love using dry pasta that doesn’t require any cooking. It’s so convenient for a dish that is already complicated. It also soaks up any excess liquid making the lasagne firmer, and there is nothing worse than overly sloppy lasagne. I like the dish to be saucy but still maintain some structural integrity. By all means, go ahead and use fresh sheets of pasta if you prefer, and I know I will get around to doing this again in the future when I happen to find some time.
The Terra del Capo Sangiovese is a bold wine with rich fruit flavours that was matured in French oak barrels for 15 months. It stands up beautifully to the richness of this classic lasagne.
*cooks notes – I highly recommend making the Bolognese component the day before. This takes ages to cook down and will take the pressure off when you assemble the dish. The flavours also develop overnight. I tried to get to a 3-hour cook but found the sauce getting quite dry after 2 so I added a ¼ cup of water and took it to two and half hours. I can’t make a béchamel without adding a good heaped teaspoon of Dijon. I know this is not remotely classic, but it lives up the sauce and amplifies the flavour of cheese so I insist on it.
Recipe – serves 6
- 4 thick slices streaky bacon (6 thin slices) finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk finely chopped
- 250gms beef mince
- 250gms pork mince
- 50gms free range chicken livers, finely chopped (optional)
- ½ glass red wine (Terra del Capo Sangiovese)
- 2 x 430gms tins chopped tomatoes (I used Italian tomatoes)
- Salt & pepper
- 80gms butter
- 90gms (1/2 cup) flour
- 800-850ml milk
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/8th of a nutmeg, grated
- Salt & pepper
- 100gms very strong aged mature hard cheese such as Parmesan, 20+ month matured Cheddar or Dalewood Huguenot + a little extra for sprinkling on the top
- Aprox 9 x sheets of dried lasagne pasta (no cooking required) - or enough to make 3 layers
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed pan or pot and fry the bacon over a medium heat until just turning crispy.
- Add the onions, carrot and celery and cook over a gentle heat until they are soft and the onions become translucent – about 8 minutes (stir almost all the time).
- Add the meat and fry this for a bout 5 minutes breaking up the particles with a wooden spoon.
- Once most of the water has cooked off, add the wine and allow most of this to cook off. Add the two tins of tomato and season with salt and pepper and then simmer gently over the lowest flame for 2 – 2.5 hours with the lid on. Remove the lid for the last 15 minutes or cook for a further 15 minutes until it is fairly dry.
- Melt the butter in a heavy based medium sized put. Add the flour and stir to cook through. Slowly add the milk about 100ml at time and stir constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps from forming. When the sauce will thicken no more and you have the consistency of a thickish custard, add the cheese, nutmeg and pepper. Cook this until the cheese has melted and then add the salt if needed (always add the salt after the cheese as the cheese is quite salty). Add a little more milk if necessary.
- Pre heat the oven to 180C / 350F
- 1/3 Bolognese sauce on the bottom
- 1 layer of pasta
- 2nd 1/3 of Bolognese sauce
- 1/3 of béchamel
- 2nd layer of pasta
- Final 1/3 bolognese
- 2nd 1/3 béchamel
- 3rd layer of pasta
- Final 1/3 of béchamel
- Sprinkle with additional grated cheese
- Loosely cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 – 45 minutes removing the foil about half way through.
- Serve with crusty bread and of course the Terra del Capo Sangiovese.
*This post is proudly sponsored by Terra delCapo
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