Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bacon Lasagna

Sometime last year I put forward the opinion that lasagna was a bit too ordinary, a little too everyday to serve as a main meal at dinner parties[1]. Well apparently I was wrong (according to the people I was conversing with) and lasagna is very appropriate for dinner.

Of course there are at least as many different lasagnas as your imagination can hold, some of which are definitely posh and for special occasions. Today I'm going to look at one of the meat sauce, cheese sauce, pasta types. A classic Bolognese sauce combines pork and beef mince; usually I use chopped bacon rather than pork mince. However sometimes I go the whole hog[3] resulting in this:

Bacon Lasagna

For the Bacon Sauce:
olive oil
8 or so rashers of smoked bacon, sliced into slivers
An onion, chopped
two or three garlic cloves, chopped
a small tin of tomatoes (cut up if not already chopped)
a dried crushed red chili or a teeny tiny pinch of chili flakes
several stalks of rosemary
a medium pinch of oregano

For the Cheese Sauce:
butter (about half a pack)
plain flour (Maybe a dessert spoon full, or a little more)
milk (3/4 of a pint of thereabouts)
grated cheese (A fistful, although don't actually grab it with your fist, as grated cheese tends to stick together when you do that)

And Finally:
some mozzarella, sliced

Fry the bacon in a little olive oil in a saucepan. Then throw in the onion, garlic, rosemary, chili and oregano and fry until the onion is soft. Add the tomatoes and a little water, bring to a simmer, season if required, then cover and allow to cook down.

If you're eating immediately, you can turn the oven on (180C or thereabouts is fine). While the bacon sauce is simmering and the oven heating up you can make the cheese sauce. My cheese sauce is a white sauce with cheese; you may have your own. Melt a big hunk of butter in a pan. Add enough flour so the butter and flour mixture become all fluffy and bubbly in the pan. Stir and cook for 30 seconds to a minute. Add milk a little at a time, stirring the mixture as thoroughly as you can. Simmer, stirring occasionally until it becomes a slightly thin white sauce, then stir in the cheese, which will thicken it[4]. Take it off the heat.

If we're lucky, we will now have a saucepan of bacon sauce, a saucepan of cheese sauce, a packer of lasagna and some slices of mozzarella. In an oven proof dish, spread a layer of the bacon sauce. Next, cover with the lasagna. Then a layer of cheese sauce. Then more bacon sauce, more lasagna, more cheese sauce. Two layers is fine, but if you want more (and have a deep enough dish) keep going. Note that you should finish with cheese sauce and put slices of mozzarella on top. If you're cooking this later, cover and put in the fridge. When you're ready to cook, it goes into 180C oven for 25-35 minutes, until the top is bubbling and has brown bits. Pull out of the oven, cut slices and eat! Don't forget to warn people that it's just come out the oven, or they may sue you as hot and sticky cheese sauce burns their tongue. Traditionally, serve with bread, salad and red wine.

[1] As opposed to having people over to eat before/after some other event, when the food is not the main attraction[2].
[2] Of course the food is not usually the main attraction even at a dinner party; it's the people. But I digress.
[3] Sorry.
[4] This white/cheese sauce is very approximate as I do it by eye. I have a weights and measures recipe for white sauce, but it's not to hand. If there's demand for it, I'll look it out. Note that you can buy white sauce and cheese sauce mixes, and that's fine, but since you need to cook the bacon sauce anyway I prefer to spend the time making cheese sauce than twiddling my thumbs.
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