Dolly Alderton is an author, journalist and podcaster who hosts ‘The High Low’ podcast. On the episode, she talks to Lara and Livvy about campaigning for gender equality (and cooked breakfasts) at her boarding school; how taste in food can make or break the attractiveness of a man; and the importance of planning a desert island dish. Table Talk is presented by Lara Prendergast and Olivia Potts.
If Dolly’s reflections on the delights of carb heavy Italian dining leave you wanting to rustle up your own Italian feast, this moreish lasagne recipe with rich béchamel sauce from Livvy (The Vintage Chef) should do the trick:
Makes: Enough for 8
Takes: 5 hours
Bakes: 40 minutes
For the ragu
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 onion, diced
2 rashers streaky, smoked bacon, cut into small pieces
400g beef mince
400g pork mince
300ml whole milk
100ml white wine
2 x 400g tin plum tomatoes
For the bechamel
100g plain flour
1 litre milk
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt, to season
1 tablespoon olive oil
18 dried lasagne sheets
- Heat a large, heavy-bottomed casserole dish with the olive oil, and add the finely diced onion, celery and carrot. Cook gently until soft but not coloured.
- Place the cut bacon in a cold frying pan, and place over a medium heat, cooking until the fat is golden. Retain the bacon fat in the pan, and spoon the bacon into the casserole dish.
- Brown both minces in the bacon fat: unless you have an enormous frying pan, you will likely have to do this in batches to avoid steaming it. You want the mince to take on a rich, dark brown colour. Add the browned mince to the casserole dish.
- Pour 300ml of milk into the casserole dish, bring up to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for half an hour.
- Add the white wine and both tins of tomatoes, swilling the tomato tins out with hot water and adding that to the casserole dish too. Squish the tomatoes so that they break apart. Bring up to a gentle boil.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C. Place a lid on the pan, and cook for four hours, by which time the ragu should be thick and rich. Check for and adjust seasoning.
- To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat, then add the flour and stir to form a paste. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture smells nutty.
- Remove from the heat and add a splash of the milk, whisking in to the flour and butter mixture. Add the milk in small additions, whisking each in before adding the next. Once all of the milk is added, the mixture should be smooth and glossy. Stir through the nutmeg and season to taste; cook for a couple of minutes more, stirring and scraping the bottom throughout. If you’re not using the bechamel immediately, place a sheet of clingfilm over it, directly touching the sauce.
- Once your ragu is ready, and you’re just about to assemble, turn the oven up to 200°C and put a large pan of salted water with a tablespoon of oil on to boil. Once the water is boiling, cook each of the lasagne sheets for one minute only. Separate the sheets and set to one side .
- In a large roasting dish, spoon a third of the ragu and spread out in an even layer. Top this with a quarter of the bechamel, spooned on top. Lay six lasagne sheets over the top – if you need to break bits off to ensure even coverage or to avoid the rounded corners of your dish, do so. Repeat twice more with a third of the ragu, a quarter of the bechamel and six lasagne sheets.
- Top the very top layer of lasagne sheets with the last of the bechamel, and use a spatula or the back of the spoon to make sure all of the lasagne is covered. Tear the mozzarella, grate the parmesan across the bechamel, and distribute across the top of the bechamel.
- Bake for 40 minutes until the lasagne is bubbling and the cheese golden. If you’d like neat portions, leave the lasagne to cool for 20 minutes before serving.