Lasagnas are usually a big, long production involving getting together all of the elements and layering them together and baking them. This easy hack involves cooking everything in one pot and the very easiest bechamel you could ever make. Forget about stirring patiently, this is a quick and easy lasagna that is also enormously satisfying!
The last thing I could ever take issue with is my job because I love it so. But on my last trip to Canada I was starting to feel the effects of 31 hours travelling as one of my flights was cancelled and the other one delayed. The first flight was delayed because of lightning and the second one was cancelled because of a birdstrike in the engine. I know right? A bird in the engine, which is the sort of thing you only tend to hear about on Air Crash Investigation, usually as a precursor to something more disastrous.
I think we were all glad that it wasn't serious and although inconvenient, we were just glad that the birdstrike wasn't while we were in the air. It was definitely a trip full of firsts though and for the first time I wandered the deserted airport at 2am in my pjyamas and slept on the airport floor. As someone with OCD of hand washing and hygiene I was a bit puzzled as to where to set up camp. All of the seats were taken with people stretched out so the only choice was to sleep on the floor. I figured that they could at least mop the hard marble whereas carpet would have so much stuff hidden in there (ugh I can't even think about that) so I headed towards the marble floor.
"Oooh let's just pretend that we're having a picnic!" I said to myself trying to make the best of the situation. I set up two blankets from the plane (the pilot had told us to take them) and a pillow and had myself a little picnic with a bottle of water because there wasn't anything open apart from vending machines. I was grateful that I had the internet and watched a movie and then fell asleep for a couple of hours. At 6am a few hours later I joined the queue to recheck my bags, chatted with some lovely nuns from Australia and after another short delay and 15 hours in flight, I was at home sweet home. I could have kissed the ground except well, you know how I feel about touching the ground ;)
Two days after I arrived home, I dreamed up the whole process of making this lasagna. You see my dreams are usually made up of times in nameless, faraway lands most of the time with strangers for company. Not entirely useful but I found that dreaming up this lasagna was very useful because there was one thing that I was looking to do and that was to make everything easy.
The thing about regular lasagna is that it is really a labour of love. You attentively stir the bechamel so that it becomes creamy without any lumps, you cook the mince, make the red sauce and then layer it until and bake it until it is ready. But this is a version that is cooked within 35 minutes - maybe even 30 minutes but I come from a family where OCD is common and giving the exact time is crucial.
Most of the work is done in the one pot. The thing that vexed me was the bechamel. I didn't want to stir a sauce for 20 minutes and then it literally came to me in the dream to blend up the milk and some ricotta together and then stir it in at the last minute. I cannot tell you how easy this was to make, the hardest thing was waiting for the broken up pieces of pasta sheet to cook. Once it is ready the creamy sauce, perfectly al dente pasta, seasoned beef and cheese strings make this a dinner hard to resist. Ask Mr NQN, he wolfed down half of this whole dish!
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever slept on an airport floor? Have you ever had a birdstrike on your plane? And do you have OCD of anything? What do your dreams usually consist of?
Easy Deconstructed Lasagna
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott/Not Quite Nigella
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 2 onions, peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
- Extra virgin olive oil for frying
- 500g/1lb good quality beef mince
- 3 cups tomato passata
- 5 lasagna sheets
- 50g/1.7ozs sachet tomato paste
- Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
- 200g ricotta
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
Step 1 - Heat a large saucepan or pot on medium to high heat and add the onions and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the beef mince in two batches and brown the meat and cook through. Add the passata and then add the lasagna sheets, roughly broken up. Cover the pasta in the passata and place the lid on and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally so that the pasta pieces don't stick together.
Step 2 - Meanwhile you can blend the ricotta with the milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt and grated nutmeg and set aside. When the 15 minutes is up, remove the lid and add in the tomato paste and then season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste. I tend to add sugar in case the tomatoes aren't very sweet. Simmer for about 5 minutes with the lid off and the colour will change to a brighter red and the flavours will come together nicely.
Step 3 - Just before serving, add the grated mozzarella cheese and stir through until melted. Then add the ricotta and milk mixture and just stir through. Serve with chopped parsley.