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Kitchen Secrets: Readers share their best tips for a truly great lasagne

Is there anything better than a well-made lasagne? Our home cooks panel weigh in.

Image: Shutterstock/Arkadiusz Fajer

EVERY HOME COOK has their own kitchen hacks, cheats and traditions, and we want to know yours.

Each week as part of our Kitchen Secrets series, we ask our readers to share their cooking tips and go-to-dishes. From the secret to quick-and-easy dinners, to the best way to scramble an egg, we set a new question every seven days.

This week, we’re looking at a comfort food staple: lasagne. At its best, it’s an alchemical combination of meaty ragu, cheesy sauce and pasta sheets. But everyone has their own twist on the recipe. So we’re asking…

What’s the secret to a really great lasagne?

Take your time: Use the best quality meat available and simmer your meat sauce for a few hours so it’s melt-in-your-mouth. The white sauce should be made from scratch and don’t spare the Parmesan! Use fresh pasta where possible. Doesn’t have to be homemade but good quality fresh pasta makes a difference. Finally don’t pile on thick meat and sauce layers. Less is more!

- Donna O’Shaughnessy

Add roast veg for a lighter finish: I always make lasagne from scratch (except for the pasta sheets which  I usually buy) I make a beef bolognese and a classic cheese sauce from roux.  This is great served with a salad but as a complete meal I think it lacks veg. Therefore I put a layer of roast Mediterranean veg, with pesto in the middle of the lasagne. This lightens up the dish and ensures you get a good portion of veg. It freezes well, one slice is a complete meal!

- Fiona Staunton

Source: Shutterstock/DG Stock

Top with walnuts and breadcrumbs: Lasagne is a firm favourite in my house. Let your mince come to room temperature before frying, like steak it will colour better and consequently have a better flavour. Use whole tinned tomatoes in your sauce and add a spoonful of sugar. It’s best to use fresh pasta sheets, but when using dried I always soak them in boiling water to soften.

Mascarpone cheese added to your white sauce will make it more luxurious. Finely I combine grated Parmesan cheese, chopped walnuts and breadcrumbs for an extra special topping. Enjoy!

- Angela Nolan

Try an easy creme fraiche topping: For easy lasagne with honey and creme fraiche, fry some chopped streaky bacon in a pan until golden. Add one chopped onion, one celery stick and one grated carrot and cook for approx five mins.

Add two finely chopped garlic cloves, cook for one minute, then add 500g of beef mince and cook until browned. Stir in 1 tbsp of tomato puree and two 400g cans of chopped tomatoes. Fill each can with water and add to the pan. Add 1 tbsp of honey and season to taste.

To assemble the lasagne, spread some ragu sauce all over the bottom of the roasting tin. Place your lasagne sheets snugly on top of the sauce. Repeat three more layers of sauce and pasta, finishing with a layer of pasta.

Mix 400 ml of creme fraiche with 2 tbsp water to make a pourable sauce. Pour this over the top of the pasta and top with 125g of torn mozzarella. Finish with a sprinkling of parmesan and bake for 30mins. Serve with basil leaves on top.

- Jennifer Dillon

Make early, make often: It’s the sauce that makes a lasagne but fresh pasta sheets can also help with the texture. I use a beef based bolognese sauce with diced smokey bacon but for convenience the white sauce I use tends to come from a jar – though I do add a sprinkle of nutmeg and ground pepper to each layer I apply.

It’s a real family favourite and from a cook’s perspective it’s great too as it can be prepared, cooked and refrigerated (or frozen) in advance and reheated when wanted and it’s a complete meal. It needs no side dishes!

- Ross Boxshall

Don’t rush it: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Silver Spoon lasagne is my definitive recipe. I tweak it a tiny bit by adding a teaspoon of dried oregano to the veg and am prone to the easier, shop-bought fresh pasta sheets. A combination of pork and beef mince will make this an altogether better affair. For the love of sweet Jesus please cook your meat sauce low and slow. No shortcuts as the longer it bubbles away on your stove, the better it will taste. Also, steer clear of shop bought béchamel, that’s an unforgivable shortcut. I’m still haunted by those gloopy and tasteless lasagnes from my college days. 

It’s an unapologetic meat feast so if you’re feeling the guilts serve it with a green leafy salad. Garlic bread essential.

- Donna Connolly

More Kitchen Secrets: Readers share the classic dishes every home cook should master>

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Michael Freeman

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