Lasagne [sing. lasagna] is Italian pasta in sheet form. Opinions differ on its origin, but some think that the word derives from the Latin ‘lasanum’, meaning a cooking pot, and that somewhere along the line the meaning shifted to or began to include the food that was cooked in the cooking pot. Whatever its origins, the dish is ancient indeed and now, thanks to the Italian diaspora, almost ubiquitous. The makeup of the sauce can be hugely varied, of course, but always the basic principle remains the same; layers of pasta interleaved with layers of ragù and cheese sauce baked in an oven.

¼ cup olive oil.
250g beef mince.
100g diced ham.
1 onion, peeled and diced.
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped.
1 anchovy fillet.
Black pepper to taste.
Salt to taste.
½ cup red wine.
1 tsp balsamic vinegar.
2 tblsp plain flour.
1 400g can chopped tomato.
2 tblsp tomato paste.
2 tblsp rubbed origanum.
50g butter.
3 tblsp plain flour.
1 ½ cups milk.
1 cup grated cheese.
Sheet pasta.
1 teaspoon paprika.

To prepare the ragù, heat the oil in a sauté pan over a hot flame and fry the beef until browned. Add the ham, the onion, the garlic, the salt and pepper and the anchovy and stir through. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is soft then add the wine and the vinegar. Cook, stirring from time to time until the liquor is reduced by half, then stir in the flour and add the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes then stir in the origanum and set aside for at least an hour.

To prepare the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the flour until it foams. Add the milk, pouring it in slowly and stirring continually until the mixture bubbles and a smooth consistency is obtained. Set aside and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place half the ragù in the bottom of a small casserole dish. Cover with a layer of sheet pasta and spread one half of the cheese sauce over the pasta. Spread the remainder of the meat sauce over the pasta, cover with another layer of pasta and the rest of the cheese sauce. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese and the paprika and lightly cover with cooking foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for a further fifteen minutes. Serve with a fresh green salad.

Serves: 2.

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