Neil Perry's easy entertaining

Neil Perry
A crowd-pleaser ... buffalo mozzarella lasagne.
A crowd-pleaser ... buffalo mozzarella lasagne. Photo: William Meppem

This is an awesome lasagne. Don't be daunted by the list of ingredients - they're all readily available, and the dish is so easy to put together.

For perfect entertaining, you can make the lasagne well ahead of time. Then, when friends arrive for dinner, all you have to do is heat it up, add a salad and open the wine.

Buffalo mozzarella lasagne

Gorgeous greens ... The Rockpool salad.
Gorgeous greens ... The Rockpool salad. Photo: William Meppem

9 instant lasagne sheets
500g fresh buffalo or cow's-milk mozzarella
100g freshly grated parmesan
Meat sauce
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
300g pork mince
300g veal mince
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tsp plain flour
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a pinch of caster sugar
700ml tomato passata
400g canned diced tomatoes
2 large handfuls basil leaves
Béchamel sauce
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp plain flour
600ml milk
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Adjust the oven racks so the dish can sit in the middle.

To make the meat sauce, heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the meats and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, for 4 minutes or until it loses its raw colour but is not browned. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has almost evaporated. Add the sugar, passata and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Check the seasoning, stir in the basil and set the meat sauce aside.

To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk all at once, whisking constantly, to avoid any lumps. Return the pan to the heat and keep whisking, until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and season.

To assemble the lasagne, spread a quarter of the meat sauce in the base of a 29cm x 23cm x 7cm lasagne dish. Place 3 of the lasagne sheets over the sauce. Spread another quarter of the sauce over the pasta, then a third of the mozzarella, torn into pieces. Continue layering the pasta, meat sauce and mozzarella two more times. Pour the béchamel sauce evenly over the final layer of mozzarella, then sprinkle with the parmesan. Cook the lasagne for 30 minutes or until the cheese is brown and the sauce is bubbling. Let the lasagne stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Hot tip

  • The meat sauce can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to two days. Just reheat it before you assemble the lasagne

Rockpool salad

3 heads mache (lamb's lettuce)
hearts of 6 small lettuces such as red oak, endive, cos and radicchio
8 sprigs watercress
1/2 bunch tarragon
1/2 bunch dill
1/2 bunch chervil
6 chives, cut into 2.5cm lengths
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
freshly ground white pepper
Palm sugar vinaigrette
2 coriander roots
1 clove garlic
1 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp palm sugar
10ml sherry vinegar
25ml red-wine vinegar
80ml best-quality extra virgin olive oil

Serves 6

To make the salad, soak all the lettuce leaves and herbs, except the coriander, in water for 5 minutes, then spin-dry in a lettuce spinner, a handful at a time. Place them on a tray and refrigerate. Don't pile them up in a bucket or bowl.

To make the Vinaigrette, crush the coriander roots, garlic and sea salt to a fine paste with a mortar and pestle. Place the palm sugar in a small pot over a low heat for about 5 minutes or until it reaches a dark caramel colour. Add the sherry vinegar, and cook for 2 minutes, then allow to cool. Add the red wine vinegar and the palm sugar mixture to the coriander paste, then whisk in the olive oil.

To serve, place the washed salad greens in a bowl. Pour the dressing over, add the coriander leaves and toss gently. Season with freshly ground pepper and carefully place on a plate. Serve immediately.

Hot tips

  • I promise that if you master the palm sugar vinaigrette, you will make it forever. You can also dress the leaves more simply in good-quality olive oil and vinegar.
  • The herbs add great flavour and complexity to the salad, but you don't have to use them all, or any at all, if you don't have them on hand.