The tastiest lasagne recipe ever

by Forager on August 4, 2010

Sometimes, on long drives, we play games to amuse ourselves and keep the driver alert. One game we played on a long drive with friends DanW and Katie, was “identify five foods you’d take to a deserted island“.

My intention was to simply identify the 5 foods you couldn’t ever live without. The brief sounds simple enough right?

Well, I clearly underestimated how very seriously my friends would take my musings. Very quickly, complex rules were added to my imaginary scenario, with strategic plays and alliances forged. At one point, the rule of 5 foods in total somehow expanded to 5 foods from each food group; DanW and Katie formed an alliance on their separate islands to ensure they had more access to a wider variety of food; and animals like cows were being strategically considered so theoretically meat, dairy and companionship could be gleaned from one food item. We called a halt to the game when DanW argued the brassica family could be added as one food item to his list of vegetables and a passionate argument ensued about the validity of the rules and whether adding one species or an entire genus was permitted. My original intention of identifying the 5 foods you couldn’t ever live without was long forgotten as by that stage we all had thriving, productive superfarms on our deserted islands and complicated criss-crossing alliances, bartering and production agreements.

But, away from my super-competitive, nerdy friends, allow me to re-visit my musing. What are the 5 foods you couldn’t live without?

I know my parents would count white rice amongst theirs since they always emphatically claim you aren’t really full unless you’ve had rice with your meal. They’ll happily prove this to me by hungrily wolfing down a bowl of rice even if I’ve just taken them out for a Western-style meal sans rice. I could easily do without rice again, years of being force-fed rice by my parents took care of that. I could also without hesitation toss bread into that basket as I really don’t eat much of it. But pasta – oh pasta is my carb of choice. This love was undoubtedly influenced by the Co-pilot, his family, his Nonno and the delicious pastas they concoct.

And to sway you on the virtues of pasta, I present you my new favourite, ridiculously tasty lasagne recipe.  It’s a recipe adapted from one featured in the June edition of the Australian Good Food magazine, but we’ve doctored the sauce component with ingredients that we normally add to our bolognaise sauce. This includes the use of pork and veal mince (to be authentically Italian of course); milk to give it a bit of richness; red wine to give it more flavour complexity; anchovies for depth of flavour; and for added decadence we used a ball of buffalo mozzarella. It doesn’t have any béchamel sauce, it’s more of a Napoletana version of lasagne – healthier, tastier and if the dubious look on Nonno’s face was anything to go by when we suggested the used of béchamel sauce, much more authentic.

.

The tastiest lasagne ever

Adapted from the Good food Magazine June 2010 edition.

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 8 lasagne sheets (dry or fresh)
  • 500g pork & veal mince
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced lengthways
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 anchovies, chopped
  • 700g jar tomato passata
  • 2 tbsp (about 1/2 inch) hot pancetta, diced
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 ball buffalo mozzarella, shredded into chunks by hand
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup (35g) flour
  • olive oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • tomato paste
  • splash of red wine
  • salt and pepper
  • baby basil leaves to garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a large baking dish
  2. Place flour in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Toss eggplant in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Coat large frying pan with oil and heat on medium. Cook eggplant in batches for 2 mins each side until golden. Remove from pan.
  3. Cook mince in the same pan on medium heat, until browned. Stir in garlic, anchovies, parsley and passata.
  4. Add in milk, red wine, stir in well and season to taste.
  5. If using dry lasagne sheets, prepare them now, by boiling in salted water for 7 minutes. Remove from water and drain on clean tea towels.
  6. Layer eggplant slices on the bottom of the pan and spoon the mince mixture on top. Layer lasagne sheets on top. Spread a thin layer of tomato paste on the pasta and dot with buffalo mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat process until all ingredients are used and so that you have 4 equal layers of mince, eggplant and pasta. Ensure the top and last layer is a lasagne sheet.
  7. Smear the tomato paste on top, dot with remainder of Parmesan and buffalo mozzarella.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes until bubbling and cheese is golden.
  9. Garnish with baby basil leaves and serve.

Compiling the lasagne tower with layers of alternating grilled eggplant, saucy bolognaise, tomato and gooey, molten cheese.

Compiling lasagne with eggplant layers and bolognaise mince

Compiling the lasagne with eggplant layers and bolognaise mince

Finish off with a healthy dose of cheese on the top layer to melt and meld the layers together and it’s oven-ready.

Dotting the lasagne with cheese

Dotting the lasagne with dollops of Parmesan cheese and buffalo mozzarella

Garnish with baby basil leaves and serve whilst piping hot.

Piping hot lasagne

And there she is, a piping hot lasagne ready to be served

A cutaway of those tasty layers begging to be eaten…

A cutaway of those delicious layers

A cutaway of those delicious layers of eggplant, mince and cheese

The lasagne was delicious, saucy, savoury, meaty, incredibly moreish and totally reaffirmed my love for pasta. We wished we made more so there would be more leftovers for another meal. Thankfully though, we have a heavy Silver Spoon Pasta cookbook jam-packed with hundreds of diverse recipes to allow me to further explore the myriad of pasta combinations.

And, as for other staples I couldn’t live without, I’d easily have to add at least pork; crab (or rather controversially crustaceans); raw fish (which should cover both sashimi and ceviche) to my list. I found it difficult to commit to a 5th and final choice. I could easily do without sweets again.. But then there’s caffeine, fruit, cheese – so many choices! After much deliberation, I’ve chosen tomatoes. If an evil tomato virus wiped out every tomato, and I couldn’t never have another tomato dish again, I might just weep and die. And no, that’s not a hyperbole.

So the 5 foods I can’t live without are, in no order:

  • pasta
  • pork
  • crab
  • raw fish
  • tomatoes

So, without building a “superfarm of your own or over-analysing my imaginary rules – what are the five foods you can’t live without? And we’re not talking the boring foods you “should have” like dairy and fibre-rich foods.  I’m just interested in the foods you adore. And, if you need some rules for clarity and boundaries, then assume you have full access to all the oils, herbs and spices that your heart desires.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 penny aka jeroxie August 4, 2010 at 9:27 pm

That looks awesome! You have just inspired me to make some soon.
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2 chocolatesuze August 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm

if it were an animal i’d say pigs for sure! they are magical mmm bacon, ham, prosciutto, pork belly… hmm cheese. and chocolate. and potato. and pasta
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3 Karen August 4, 2010 at 11:38 pm

LOL talk about going off on tangents. Aah friends… gotta love them. And I absolutely adore lasagne!

I think for me it’s:

1. Eggs – hands down, no questions
2. Beef – I’d suffer without mince for ragu and meatballs, steak and everything else for braised dishes
3. Watermelon – the thought of summer without it is too painful to imagine
4. Potatoes – I’m a diehard steak and potato girl
5. Salmon – I love it raw and smoked more than I love my family ;P

Come to think of it, can we live together on this island because I don’t think I can live without your foods too…

4 Steph August 5, 2010 at 8:11 am

Mm that lasagne looks great, I love that it has eggplant in it. 5 foods…hmm it has to be eggs at the top of the list! Beef, brocolli, rice (haha so asian) & chocolate!
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5 Betty @ The Hungry Girl August 5, 2010 at 8:27 am

Haha my parents are exactly the same, they always have to have rice to be ‘full’! Mm… 5 choices is so hard, I’d say… chocolate, milk, eggs, salmon, pork and apples.
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6 angie August 5, 2010 at 9:05 am

Oh what a fun car ride that would have been ;D
I know what you mean about the parents and rice, I’ve cooked meat and veg before which they will eat without rice (but with a whole chilli or chilli paste on hand) but they insist that meals never quite seem complete without rice or noodles of some sort – the asian kind though not pasta.
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7 Jacq August 5, 2010 at 11:23 am

Oh my parents are exactly the same, they insist on eating rice with everything. My dad goes so far as to say that rice is a different type of carb to pasta and bread and it fills you up much more! I think I would have to agree with you on the pasta and the raw fish (I can’t imagine a world without sashimi!), and also chocolate, potatoes and noodles (the Asian type).
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8 Gourmantic August 5, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I can’t get over the fact that you play food games in the car! That would make me so hungry I’d lose concentration :)
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9 Simon @ the heart of food August 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Talk about overthinking the problem…

For me the list would be eggs, pork, rice, tomatoes & potatoes. I’d imagine the rest of what I would want would be available in the surrounding waters or on the island itself, depending on where it’s located.

Lasagne looks great, and not too overburdened with cheese.
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10 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella August 5, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Hmm the tastiest lasagne ever! Big claim huh! ;) Do playing those games in the car make you hungry?
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11 mademoiselle délicieuse August 5, 2010 at 9:48 pm

I think my five foods will require some thought, but I can tell you that it would include rice. I do miss it especially when I’ve had too much stodgy bread or pasta. I can also tell you that my lasagne of choice also contains no bechamel – two reasons: I don’t particularly like its richness and I also happen to suck at making it!
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12 Trissa August 6, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Eggplant in your lasagne?! Fantastic Trina! I probably couldn’t live without this lasagna now! Other than that – probably can’t live without rice…

13 OohLookBel August 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I never understood how some people (no names, Mum) *must* have rice with nearly every meal. Then I realised that unless I have bread bread and more bread, I don’t feel full. Sigh. Carbohydrate-loaded pasta is an alternative, I suppose, so your lasagne would be a great substitute on that deserted island :)
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14 Celeste @ Berrytravels August 6, 2010 at 7:22 pm

The housemate really really likes lasagna and we are always on the lookout for good recipes. Definitely going to try yours!
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15 Bonnibella August 8, 2010 at 10:39 am

That looks so good because it’s sooo chunky, I have to try it soon.
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16 Conor @ HoldtheBeef August 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Ooh we played games like this on my recent road trip. I think we did a half-arsed version of this game where you could only choose one thing, and I was very generously allowed to say “stir-fry”. I think my friend was being overly generous allowing this.

This is a great recipe. I may have to give it a crack using just pork, or turkey. I am a fan of bechemel, but the winter spread is taking it’s toll :( wahh
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17 Adrian @ Food Rehab August 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Hmmm, I can’t think of 5 right now- but def would need potatoes and some seeds to plant more vegies. Is that cheating…perhaps so. :P

Oh, this does look awfully tasty indeed!
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18 Ellie (Almost Bourdain) August 9, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Yum! Best lasagna I have seen by far. I can live without my soy milk, rice, banana, coffee and tomato!
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19 Shirley August 9, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Hey there :) My partner’s alergic to eggplant, what would you suggest we use instead? Or can we do without? Would love to try the recipe!

20 Trisha August 9, 2010 at 7:43 pm

My parents are the same, especially my dad! Sometimes if he knows we’re going to a place that doesn’t serve rice, he eats rice at home first before heading out. He needs rice on every meal! As for the lasagna… I love eggplant in lasagnas especially when the sauce is a bit chilli. Mmmmm!
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21 Forager August 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Hey Penny – Great! Let me know if you like the recipe!

Hey Chocolatesuze – Absolutely agree. Pigs are magical! Interesting choices – most of the choices aren’t surprising – except potato – didn’t know you were such a fan!

Hey Karen – I love your explanations (hope your family members don’t read this blog! They might be offended!). And I like your choices too.. maybe if we do this quietly we can form an alliance between our islands and no-one would know..

Hey Steph – Fascinating! Broccoli as a top 5? Wouldn’t have picked you as a fanatic from your blog. And yes, your choice of rice would make my folks want you as a daughter instead!

Hey Betty – Clearly hard to pick 5 since you picked 6!!

Hey Angie – this seems to be a recurring theme with most Asian parents then – it’s not just mine being weird!

Hey Jacq – 2 types of carbs? Both pasta and noodles? You must be a fan!

Hey Gourmantic – We were losing concentration not because of hunger but anger I think. My friends can be annoying and obstinate!

Hey Simon – Ooh – I like your selection. In fact those 5 things make a pretty tasty dish on their own I imagine!

Hey Lorraine – Yup. It’s a big claim but s’ true. It’s the tastiest recipe ever. Never said it was the “best” but for sure the tastiest!

Hey mademoiselle delicieuse & Trissa – To you both: you can’t take the “Asian” out of the girl ;)

Hey OohLookBel – I agree, any island that serves that lasagne ain’t a bad island. I’m probably close to getting all the 5 food groups in there!

Hey Celeste – Great! I hope you & the housemate like it!

Hey Bonnibella – Definitely delicious! If you make it, make sure you have enough for leftovers!

Hey Conor – Ooh. Definitely would’ve vetoed stir fry. That is too generic for the top 5 game – at least by my made up rules!

Hey Adrian – Ah, you don’t need to be on the island anymore! So you can choose seeds if you want, but only if you adore seeds! And then I’d ask what seeds in particular?

Hey Ellie – Wow really? That’s big coming from such a prolific cook! Hey what no major protein in your top 5?

Hey Shirley – Allergic to eggplant? Poor thing! You can definitely leave it out, or substitute it with zucchini slices, or flat cap mushroom slices? Let me know how it goes!

Hey Trisha – I normally add a bit of chilli in my pasta as well – not the lasagne, but the bolognaise definitely gets a liberal dose of spice!

22 Christine @ peasforme August 12, 2010 at 10:12 pm

I have very simple tastes in food. I can’t live without:

1. Sourdough bread (hello Sonoma and Brasserie)
2. Penne pasta with Napoletana sauce. I cook this at least once a week. Multiple times if Alec is away.
3. Cheese of any kind except blue
4. Milk Chocolate – Belgian, French. Salted caramel centre, mmmmm.
5. Natural yoghurt – I could eat it by the bucketload. Add strawberries and it forms my daily breakfast.

Excellent post Trina :) I LMAO picturing you playing the game.

23 Forager August 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

Hey Christine – I love your selection! It’s so specific! None of this broad brush “pasta” stuff that even I added in. Specifically penne with Napoletana sauce! Love it. Especially since I just told another friend about this post, and the conversation quickly turned into a heated argument about the rules and she kept on trying to cheat with items like sandwiches, soup and seafood so she could theoretically have anything she wanted. Friends who play by the rules are great!

24 Sara (Belly Rumbles) August 14, 2010 at 11:57 am

Put some pork on my fork, could not live without our lil piggies. Looks so tasty and not using béchamel sauce is a nice change.
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25 Amy @ cookbookmaniac.com August 16, 2010 at 12:45 am

aww. best lasagna ever! I’m always up for a chunk of that. I can’t live without my pho, red frogs, crunchie bars, pomegranates and pizza! any game gotta do with food is fun. even food fights!
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26 Iron Chef Shellie August 18, 2010 at 10:50 am

It’s been ages since my last lasagne, and now I really must have a lasagne!

What couldn’t I live without? hmmm… pasta, chocolate, tomatoes, chicken and prawns.
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27 Maria @ Scandifoodie August 18, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Yum the mozzarella would give this dish such beautiful creaminess!
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28 Betty August 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

this lasagne really does look awesome :)

29 Forager August 31, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Hey Sara – Couldn’t agree with you more. Love our piggy friends – so much pleasure to be gleaned from one animal!

Hey Amy – What a fascinating selection! I agree whole heartedly with the pho but red frogs and pomegranates are a surprising pick – so very specific – you must love them!

Hey Iron Chef Shellie – Yours reads like the good food selection! All the staples!

Hey Maria – definitely, the buffalo mozzarella is worth the splurge!

Hey Betty – It is – you should try it :)

30 Prince Evans June 14, 2013 at 5:19 pm

This recipe is interesting. It’s nice that you added eggplant–which made the dish even more unique and healthy. Will definitely try this out next time. Well If I will be asked the five foods I can’t live without, (in no particular order) it would be rice, prawns, pork, banana, chocolate. Nice post by the way.

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