Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Wonders of Mince (Part 2): Low-Guilt Lasagna

Well, after a very long and unexpected break from the blogosphere, I'm back!  I'm sure I haven't been too sorely missed, but I have missed the outlet of writing.  I guess I'll just pick up where I left off...

Another of my favourite "hide the vegies in the mince" meal is lasagna.  Underneath that crusty yet gooey, cheesy top, in amongst the al dente pasta and meaty Bolognese, one can hide a multitude of virtues.  In fact, one of the things I love most about this comfort food is that it actually represents quite a balanced meal - some (lean) protein, some carbs, a bit of (low-fat) dairy and, of course, lots of veg.  My dear mum has always made it like this - although the vegies are not so hidden in her version (if you know my mum, you know she likes chunky vegies!) and includes more than just the vegies I've listed below.

This is a meal best saved for a not-so-busy day, as it takes a bit longer to prepare, but it's so worth it!

Low-Guilt Lasagna (serves 6)

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
500g beef mince
1 large carrot, grated
1 large stick celery, finely chopped
1 large zucchini, grated
5 button mushrooms, finely chopped
100g spinach, finely shredded
1 bottle Bertolli Provista tomato sauce or other tomato passata
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

500g lasagna sheets

3 cups milk
2 heaped tablespoons cornflour
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt & Pepper, to taste

1/2 cup cheddar and/or parmesan cheese, grated, extra

1. Preheat oven to 180.  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, then saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent.  Add mince and cook until browned, breaking up the lumps with a spoon.

2.  Add the carrot, celery, zucchini and mushroom and cook for 1 minute, then add tomato sauce and herbs. Stir to combine and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat milk in a large jug in the microwave for 4 minutes, or until almost boiling.  Combine the cornflour with a dash of cold milk in a small cup to make a smooth paste.  Add 1/2 cup of hot milk to cornflour mix, then gradually add back to the remaining milk, stirring continuously.

4. Heat the milk in the microwave again, stirring every 1 minute, until thick.  Add the cheeses and season to taste.

5. Add the spinach to the meat sauce and season to taste.

6. Grease a lasagne dish and place a single layer of lasagne sheets on the base.  Layer the lasagna as follows: meat sauce, pasta, cheese sauce, meat sauce, pasta, cheese sauce, meat sauce, pasta, cheese sauce.

7. Cover the top with extra cheese and place in the oven for 40 minutes or until browned on top and a knife can be inserted through all layers easily.

8.  Serve with salad and garlic bread, or just as is!

By the way, did you know that you can buy mince that has been snap-frozen (so-to-speak) so that you can cook it straight from the freezer?  And the best thing about it is that it doesn't cook in clumps so you don't have to stand there breaking it all up as it cooks!  I love it - especially because I always forget to take meat out of the freezer in time to defrost for dinner!