There are several versions of a traditional Italian meat sauce for lasagne and they vary depending on the region of origin. Here, as is the custom in the north, full-cream milk is added to the sauce for richness. Simmering the sauce over low heat for a long time also adds extra intensity to the flavour.
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) mixed minced (ground) pork and veal
2 teaspoons mixed dried Italian herbs
4 garlic cloves, chopped
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) milk
375 ml (13 fl oz/1½ cups) red wine
400 g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste (concentrated purée)
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) good-quality chicken stock
50 g (1¾ oz) butter, chopped
300 g (10½ oz) fresh lasagne sheets
125 g (4½ oz) finely grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup basil leaves, to serve
green salad, to serve
125 g (4½ oz) butter, chopped
125 g (4½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) warm milk
1 bay leaf
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion, celery and carrot over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until soft.
2. Add the crumbled minced meat to the pan and stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Stir in the herbs and garlic.
3. Add the milk, stir to combine and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the milk is absorbed.
4. Stir in the wine, tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken stock and simmer over low heat for 1½ hours, or until thick, adding a little hot water if the mixture is sticking to the pan. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5. While the sauce is cooking, make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and whisk over low heat until the mixture is dry and grainy. Gradually whisk in the warm milk and slowly bring to a simmer. Add the bay leaf and cook over low heat 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until thick. Season to taste, cover with plastic wrap and cool slightly. Remove bay leaf.
6. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).
7. Rub half the butter over the base of a 3 litre (100 fl oz/12 cup) heatproof casserole dish (measuring about 19 x 35 x 7.5 cm/7½ x 14 x 3 inches), and line the base with lasagne sheets. Top with one-third of the meat sauce and one-third of the béchamel sauce. Top with another layer of pasta. Continue layering (you will have three layers of pasta), finishing with a layer of béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and dot with the remaining butter.
8. Place the dish on an oven tray and bake for 45 minutes, or until browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and stand for 10 minutes, then scatter with basil and serve with a green salad.