Ready Meal Revolution: Ready meal lasagne, 75p, vs home made free range pork lasagne, 69p.
So I’m home from a much-needed rest in Brighton and back in the kitchen with my sleeves rolled up…
One of the most popular dishes I’ve been asked to take on is the humble lasagne – and I’ve been putting it off, firstly, because I’ve Never Made Lasagne Before. Ever. But, i’ve eaten enough of it to know it’s made up of a meat ragu, a white sauce, and some layers of pasta – how hard could it be?
The ready meal version I based it on was made with beef, and cost 75p per 300g portion.
My lasagne was made with free range pork, and this recipe made 6 portions at just under 69p per portion. (If you use the equivalent ‘basic’ mince, it reduces the cost to 42p per portion.)
In the interests of fairness, both of these meals were cooked before photographing. I’m not sure you can tell with the white one…
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp skimmed milk powder
1/2 a mozzarella cheese ball
450g free range pork mince
2 tsp mixed herbs
1 small tin double concentrated tomato purée
1 stock cube diluted in 150ml water
9 lasagne sheets
Some people like to cook the pasta sheets first to reduce the cooking time in the oven, I decided immediately that I am one of those people. Lasagne can be cooked from frozen if the pasta sheets are uncooked, but will take around 40 minutes to an hour in the oven from frozen. I decided to cook my pasta sheets first and finish them off in the oven at the end to crisp up, so put them in a large shallow pan of water to boil without sticking together. Lift out with a wooden spoon or one of those egg turner things that probably has a more technical name than that.
While the pasta cooks, make the ragu! Add the onions, mince and herbs to a medium saucepan and cook on a medium heat to brown the mince and soften the onions. (I didn’t add oil as it seeps out of the mince, but add a splash if you want.) When the mince is brown, not pink, add the tomato purée and stock, and bring to the boil. Boil for a few minutes to ensure the mince is cooked through, then transfer to a large bowl to stand, to develop the flavours.
Rinse and dry the saucepan, and make the white sauce by mixing the oil, flour and skimmed milk powder in a saucepan. Stir together on a low heat for a minute or two until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add a splash of water to make a paste. Stir well to eliminate any lumps, add a splash more water, and repeat until only half the water is left, stirring continuously to stop lumps from forming. Tear or cut the cheese into small pieces and add to the pan, and bring to the boil to melt in. Reduce back to a low heat and stir well.
Make the lasagne by layering ragu sauce in the bottom of each foil tray, or one large roasting/Pyrex style dish. Lay the pasta sheets on top (I used 3/4’of a pasta sheet per layer for the foil tins, if making a large lasagne then use half the available sheets). Spread a thin layer of the mozzarella sauce on top.
Add a second layer of ragu, then pasta, then a thick layer of the mozzarella sauce.
To eat immediately: blast in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 200C, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.
To freeze: allow to cool completely and pop in the freezer. To cook from frozen, pop in the oven at 200C for 30 minutes.
Ingredients cost breakdown, all prices Sainsburys and Sainsburys Basics, correct at time of writing:
1 tbsp oil, 3p (£4/3l). 1 tbsp flour, 3p (65p/1.5kg). 2 tbsp skimmed milk powder, 5p (£1.01/400g). 200ml water. 1/2 a mozzarella cheese ball, 25p (50p each). 450g free range pork mince, £3 (2 for £6). 1 loose onion, 11p. 2 tsp mixed herbs, 3p (30p/jar). 1 small tin double concentrated tomato purée, 35p. 1 stock cube diluted in 150ml water, 2p (20p/10 cubes). 9 lasagne sheets, 25p (39p/14 sheets).
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack