Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Art of Layers: Lasagne

I am still in the mode of laborious love!! And this time it’s in the form of layers. Layers of hard work!! If someone tells you lasagne is such an easy thing to rustle up, be sure to understand that s/he never really made the dish themselves. S/he bought it and sent it to u, just to earn the brownie points. And I actually have seen someone do that with my own eyes. Simply, ordered precooked lasagne packs from the restaurant, put into a serving dish side by side and baked in the oven with a slight sprinkling of cheese on top. Imagine the plight of the foodie in me when that lady so boldly claimed later during the party, that making lasagne is a child’s play!!!!#$#%@#$!
It’s not!! And I am not going to lie to you about it. A classic plate of meat lasagne takes a lot of time, energy and love to be prepared. It’s not a dish for a couple to pick on, but a whole hearty dish for the full family to enjoy!! And it’s a loaded dish. Loaded with freshness of a bright tomato sauce, nutrition of proper cheese and milk and packed with layers of love!!

Now my recipe is certainly Indianized to a great extent. The classic Italian lasagne is always made with beef, but I wanted a lighter Indian version, so I opted for chicken. You can very well substitute beef or meat in the recipe; just remember that the cooking time will increase accordingly. I have had chicken lasagne in a lot of restaurants, but trust me when I say that it’s not even 10% of the taste that this particular recipe of mine will give you. I have tailor made it to suit my Indian taste buds, and very soon I will also do a version for the vegetarians to enjoy as well.

450 gms Chicken mince
7 -8 rashers of bacon (either use classic, or chicken or turkey or completely forget about it!!)
3 medium tomatoes pureed
1 big onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tsp of fennel seeds
A handful of fresh coriander chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt according to taste
Ground black pepper according to taste
A splash of red wine
5 lasagne sheet
2 tsp butter
1 tsp oil
3 tsp maida (refined flour)
½ cup to ¾ cup of cold milk
Grated nutmeg according to taste
A good amount of grated Parmeggiano Reggiano, mozzarella and/or cheddar cheese

In a large pot, scatter chopped bacon and let it render out its fat. If you choose not to use it, heat some oil instead.

Brown the ground chicken, onions and garlic in the oil or with the bacon and its juices, until they start to cook. It takes about 6 to 9 minutes to brown the meat. Use a medium to low temperature to brown the meat. 

Now add the tomatoes and stir well to combine. Cook for another minute or so before adding in the following ingredients to the pot, stirring it constantly:

1 tsp of fennel seeds
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt according to taste
Ground black pepper according to taste

Once these ingredients are well incorporated, let the sauce simmer and cook till tender. Chicken takes very less time to cook down, so 5 - 10 minutes of simmering on low heat will do the job. Finish off the sauce by adding the splash of wine and fresh coriander; remove from heat once the alcohol has cooked off.
Now to the white layer:
Traditionally, a ricotta cheese and egg mixture is used to create this white layer between meat sauces. But I find that cheese super expensive to buy, and making it at home never really has given me a satisfying result. Moreover, lasagne already been this labour extensive, will add in much more pain if you also had to do cheese making. So I settled for a layer of basic white sauce, which does the trick beautifully!!

In another pan, melt 2 tsp butter with 1 tsp oil. Add in the flour and let it cook gently, till a roasted aroma of flour wafts out of the pan!

Now to this hot roasted mix in the pan, add in the cold milk (straight-out-of-the-fridge-cold) and stir constantly to get a lump-free, heavy cream like consistency of white sauce. Once the desired consistency is reached, that is it should coat the back of a spoon without thoroughly dripping off the sides, remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and ground nutmeg.

In the meanwhile, in salted boiling water, boil the pasta sheets till its soft, drain and rinse in cold water. Then lay it out on kitchen towels to soak in the excess water, and its ready to be used.

Now to layering the dish:

Finally, the best part; layering this extensive dish of laborious love!!

In an oven proof dish, ladle out the cooked meat sauce to coat the bottom. Evenly lay pasta sheets on it. Top that with the white sauce and sprinkle over an even layer of the cheese mix. Lay the second layer of pasta sheets.

Ladle out the tomato meat sauce evenly on top of it, and sprinkle over a thin layer of Parmeggiano Reggiano grated. Cover that with the pasta sheets and repeat the layers till you are finished with all your ingredients.

Make sure that the meat sauce comes on top, with a generous layer of cheese mix to top it and finish off the layers. Your dish is ready!! At this point you can wrap in foil and refrigerate it till the time to serve dinner/lunch.

Right before serving it, put it in a pre-heated 200 deg Celsius oven for 15 to 20 minutes, till the cheese on top is melted thoroughly and the layers rise up a bit. Serve hot!!
Served best with toasted garlic bread and tossed salad!!


  1. Just thought of preparing this dish on women's day with my hubby....and it turned out to be just awesome. Almost used the same ingredients as suggested by you though didnt use basil and fennel seeds....
    The only complaint that I have was it should have been more juicy.....or probably the cheese should have melted more....I used cedar cheese....wats ur take on this?

    1. Juicy-ness of any dish cant depend on cheese.. it has to depend on the amount of liquid in the sauce and simmering time u kept it on. also, if you use ready to use dry sheets of lasagna pasta, then the amount of liquid has to go up in the dish. i am not a fan of these dry varieties. boiling the pasta in the beginning gives out most of the taste and texture.

      For the next time, keep your sauce a bit runny. add in a generous amount of red wine or if u want it alcohol free then some sort of veg or non veg stock.


We are always eager to hear your take on food, my way!!!


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