I absolutely adore Italian food. It has great flavour components such as tangy tomato, rich cheese and fragrant basil making it the ideal comfort food. Not to mention that it mostly consists of the most comforting food group of all- carbs! However cooking a proper ragu can be quite time-consuming. This recipe is a quick lasagna that I like to make on lazy Sunday afternoons and as the name suggests it contains a few cheats to make it simple and make the clean-up easier. For one I use a pre-made pasta sauce (ssshhhh don’t tell anyone) however I’ll show you how to get maximum flavour out of it. I also don’t make a classic bechamel instead I make a simple cheese white sauce in the microwave.
Cheat’s Lasagna (serves 6)
250 g lean minced beef
15 ml olive oil
10 ml tomato paste
7 ml garlic paste
25 ml balsamic vinegar
5 ml sugar
1 small onion (small dice)
1 medium carrot (small dice)
1 store-bought pasta sauce (napoletana or tomato and basil)
300 ml full cream milk
50 g butter
50 g flour
100 g cheddar cheese
100 g parmesan (parmesano reggiano preferably)
12 lasagna sheets (*oven-ready if available)
- Heat the oil over a medium heat in a skillet. Once the olive oil becomes very runny add the minced beef a little at a time to make sure it browns. Add the tomato paste and garlic and fry for 4 minutes.
- Turn up the heat to high and add all of the balsamic vinegar . The acidity should evaporate immediately- this is called deglazing. Add the sugar and stir-through
- Add the onions and carrots and fry for another 5 minutes.
- Add the sauce along with 100 ml of water and reduce heat to medium. Let the mince simmer while you prepare the white sauce.
- In a large microwaveable container heat the milk to scalding (this takes about 1 minute 30 sec in the microwave). Add the butter and microwave for another 30 seconds so the butter melts.
- Mix the flour with a little bit of water to make a paste. Add this mixture into the heated milk while stirring continously. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes until the mixture thickens.
- Add half of the parmesan cheese to the sauce and stir well.
- Place the lasanga sheets on the bottom of an oven-proof dish, add enough white sauce to cover the sheets. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and then add a third of the minced beef mixture. Continue this procedure until you run out of minced beef.
- The last layer is a layer of lasagna sheets covered with white sauce. Sprinkle over parmesan and cheddar cheese generously (You can use more than is specified it this recipe- I’m watching my waistline)
11.Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes. After baking time take the lasagna out of the oven and allow to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
*If you cannot find ready to bake lasagna sheets you need toblanch them before making the layers. Cook the sheets in rapidly boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes.