Classic Italian lasagna

Recipe from Easy Cook

Preparation time: 40 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins
Total time: 1h30 mins
Serves: 6

For the Béchamel sauce
5 tbs butter, plus 2 tbs for the lasagna
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk at room temperature
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

¼ cup olive oil
450-500g ground beef
Salt and pepper

600-650g ricotta cheese
3 large eggs

1 ½ cups tomato sauce, recipe follows*

500g lasagna sheets
500g frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 cups (700g) shredded mozzarella
¼ cup (70g) grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 200º C.
2. Make the tomato sauce.
3. Make the Béchamel sauce: melt butter in a pot over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow cooling completely.
4. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow cooling completely.
5. In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
6. Into the bottom of a 30x20cm baking dish, spread 1/3 of the béchamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish.
7. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture and then a layer of all the spinach.
8 .Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top.
9. Sprinkle ½ the mozzarella cheese on top of the beef.
10. Spread another 1/3 of the béchamel sauce.
11. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining béchamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
12. Cut the remaining butter into cubes and top lasagna.
13. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes.
14. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.

Simple Tomato Sauce:

½ cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and pepper
3 (cca 800g net) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

1. In a large casserole pot heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 50 minutes or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning.
4. Add ½  the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.
If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.