Spinach lasagna al forno

spinach lasagna al forno

Nothing quite beats the winter chill like a good lasagna or lasagne if you feel like saying it in Italian.

Growing up my mom always made “green” lasagna, leaves of spinach lasagna with a rich bolognese and béchamel (white) sauce. It was only years later that we found out lasagna also came in a non-green version. Hmm…I think my parents wanted to make sure we got some extra vegetables in. That said, when there wasn’t a lot of meat in the house, I remember my mom adding more grated carrot and other veggies into the dish to “bulk” up the dish.

Either way it was super yum.

Fast forward to today, a cold and blustery winters day in Johannesburg. The only thing that could satisfy a hungry family – a hot and hearty meal. Lasagna fit the bill perfectly. I also like to make lasagna, mac-and-cheese, bobotie etc. in bulk so I doubled up the recipe below. Except for the mince, for which I bulked up with extra veggies. This yielded about 3 freezer tins of lasagna, each tin enough to feed a family of four.

Ingredients for the bolognese sauce

  • 350g minced beef
  • approx 10 sheets of spinach lasagna
  • 80g tomato paste
  • 100g grated cheddar cheese / or parmigiano if you prefer
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 onion
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Ingredients for the béchamel sauce

  • 1lt milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 50grams flour
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • nutmeg (to taste)

Method for bolognese sauce
Melt the butter in a pan and add the finely chopped celery, carrot and onion. Fry for about 5 minutes. Add the mince and cook till browned. Add the cup of wine and cook till evaporated. Add the tomato paste and stock. Cook uncovered on a medium heat for 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Method for béchamel sauce
About 20 minutes into the cooking time of your bolognese sauce, start making your béchamel sauce. There are few steps, but you have to take this part easy to make sure you don’t burn the milk.

Heat up the milk in a pan – the hot milk combines better with the flour and minimises lumps forming.

In another pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and make sure all of it combines with the butter. Now add about 2-3 ladles of hot milk at a time to the flour mixture. Whisk rapidly. Keep on adding ladles of milk and whisking. The sauce should be nice and thick. Take off the heat before it boils and add salt and pepper to taste.

Building your lasagna
Spread a ladle of béchamel on the bottom of the foil tin or a buttered ovenproof dish. Add leaves of spinach lasagna to cover the tin, taking care not to overlap too much. Cover the sheets with a layer of bolognese, followed by béchamel and some grated cheese. Continue to build up your dish alternating the layers of lasagna, filling and cheese. You should end up with a top layer of cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Your dish should be golden brown on top and the pasta cooked through. Serve with a side salad and a glass of wine in front of a fire.

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