A staunch family favourite (my boys groan with delight while devouring), this Italian classic has so many variations and they all taste pretty good!  I am not a believer of vegetables in lasagne (unless it is a vegetarian one of course) but love to accompany this rich, meaty, basil infused and cheesy rendition with a crisp garden salad.  It is not traditional, I am not Italian.  It is however, emmalicious!

Prep time:  45 Minutes                Cooking time:  40 Minutes                 $  Low Budget

Serves 8-10   (I make a large lasagne and then freeze the portions for another meal.  Feel free to halve the recipe.)

Olive oil for frying

1kg of lean beef mince

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 large brown onion, finely diced

1 tsp of dried oregano

1 cup of dry red wine

2 x 400gm tins of diced tomatoes

1 cup of tomato paste (sounds excessive but makes it gorgeously rich and tomatoey!)

2 tsp of sugar

1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh basil

Sea salt and cracked pepper

2 x 375gm Latina fresh lasagne sheets (you won’t need it all but leftover sheets freeze well in a ziplock bag)

1/2 cup of grated parmesan

11/2 cups of grated mozzarella

16 whole basil leaves (optional)

For the Bechamel:

80gm of butter

1/2 a cup of plain flour

4 cups of milk

1/2 tsp of grated nutmeg (fresh is best but dried will do)

1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan

Sea salt and black pepper

Heat a large, heavy based frypan and add a little olive oil.  Lightly fry the onion until translucent before adding the garlic and oregano.  Fry for a further minute or two, turn the pan up nice and high and add the mince.  Break the mince up with the back of a spoon until it is browned all over.  Pour in the wine and allow to reduce for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper and stir well to combine.  Bring the mixture back to a simmer and allow the liquid to reduce for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle over the basil, mix it in, remove from the heat and set aside.

To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a large saucepan.  While the butter is melting, season with salt and pepper and add the grated nutmeg.  Once the butter is melted and bubbling, sprinkle over the flour.  Mix well with a whisk and allow the mixture to cook for a minute or two, before adding the milk a little at a time and continuing to whisk.  The mixture will thicken very quickly so keep whisking to avoid lumps.  When all the milk is added to the mixture, allow it to come up to a simmer before adding the parmesan.  Stir right into the corner of the pan until the cheese has melted and set aside.

To assemble the lasagne, drizzle a little olive oil in the base of a large lasagne dish and brush it to the edges to prevent the lasagne sheets sticking to the base.  Line the base of the dish with a single layer of lasagne and spread over an even layer of the meat mixture.  Top with more lasagne sheets and then spread over a thin layer of bechamel.  Sprinkle over 1/4 cup of mozzarella and dot 8 of the whole basil leaves on top.  Cover with another layer of lasagne sheets and then repeat until you have three layers of meat and three layers of bechamel, finishing with the bechamel on top.  You will only put the basil leaves on the bechamel layers between sheets of lasagne, not the layer on top.  Sprinkle over the remaining mozzarella and parmesan and sprinkle with a little more dried oregano if you like.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and bake the lasagne for 35-40 minutes or until golden and bubbling.  Remove the lasagne from the oven and allow it to rest for at least five minutes before slicing into 8,10 or 12 portions*.  Serve a generous slab with a lovely crisp side salad.

* This is a sensational meal for a lot of people with a large salad and garlic bread.  I often cook this with another pasta dish which makes it so easy as it can be prepared in advance.