As the days go by, I've come to realise that Cloud9Food is all about comforting, home-style food that is not only tasty to eat, but is also heavenly for the chef ie. simple to prepare! Another favourite of mine which falls into this category is my One-Sauce Lasagna.
I love lasagna, but the thought of preparing the bolognese meat sauce, bechamel sauce, layering everything and then baking it sends me running to find something else that's faster to cook. Hence the One-Sauce version.
Instead of making bechamel sauce from scratch (which I find terribly tedious), I make a large portion of "creamy" tomato meat sauce. The sauce is then layered with instant lasagna sheets and baked. It still takes some time, but is much faster than the original 2-sauce version, and I don't find I lose much taste-wise. This lasagna is still tomato-y, creamy and cheesy. The meat sauce can even be made in advance and frozen, which cuts down preparation time even more. And yes, I cheat and buy tomato soup (the no MSG, no preservative variety!) to add further flavour to the meat sauce. Who has time to boil and boil and boil the sauce?
For bento lunch makers, leftovers can be packed in microwaveable safe containers for lunch the next day.
Continue reading for the recipe...
Easy One-Sauce Lasagna
(makes one large lasagna in a 2.5 L capacity dish)
500g pack of instant lasagna sheets (which does not require pre-cooking)
6 -7 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp light olive oil (or other cooking oil)
400g minced beef or a mix of minced beef and pork (as lean as possible)
2 large carrots, chopped into small cubes
2 x 400g canned tomatoes
5 heaped Tbsp tomato paste
500 - 600g creamy tomato soup (look for the no MSG, no preservatives, organic soup variety if possible. For reference, I use Pacific Natural Foods Organic Creamy Tomato Soup)
1 -2 bay leaves (optional)
1 cup milk (low-fat, skim milk is also fine)
100g cheddar cheese
additional 200g - 250g cheddar and/or parmesan cheese (for layering and topping the lasagna)
1. In a large saucepan, add the olive oil and fry the garlic lightly until fragrant. Add the minced meat and stir to separate the mince until the meat is cooked. Add the chopped carrots. (If you are pressed for time, microwave the carrots to soften them first.)
2. Add the canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with some salt and pepper, and stir. Add 1 -2 bay leaves here for added flavour (optional). Bring to the boil, then simmer over medium heat for 20 - 30 minutes.
3. Add 500g of the creamy tomato soup and simmer for another 5 - 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.
(When making the meat sauce in advance, allow to cool and transfer into a freezer-safe container for freezing at this point. To defrost, transfer the frozen sauce into a large saucepan and heat until defrosted.)
4. Add the milk and 100g cheddar cheese to the meat sauce and stir. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. You should have quite a lot of meat sauce at this stage as it replaces both bolognese and bechamel sauces.)
5. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C. Lightly grease a 2.5L capacity ovenproof dish. Ladle some meat sauce into the dish to cover the bottom. Add a layer of instant lasagna sheets (you may need to break them to fit the size of your dish), then a sprinkle of cheddar or parmesan cheese, then some more meat sauce. Repeat until the meat sauce is used up. (There may be leftover lasagna sheets as well.) End with a layer of meat sauce, and sprinkle some cheddar/parmesan (or a mix) of cheeses on top.
Tip: Around 3/4 of the way through layering, if it looks like you don't have enough sauce, add another 100g or so of the creamy tomato soup to the sauce and mix.
6. Bake the lasagna in the oven according to the time indicated on your packet of instant lasagna sheets (approx 30 -45 minutes). Serve with a side salad.