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Total Cooking Time: 90 minutes – 2 hours
Do not adjust your monitors, yes what you are seeing there is a very radioactive shade of green atop this lasagne. Fear not, that is the product of melting the cheese known as ‘Sage Derby,’ and it certainly brings this dish alive.
I’m a big fan of taking staple dishes and challenging their seemingly core elements. At least in the UK, we seem to think of Lasagne as either a beef and tomato or vegetable and tomato affair. But why stop there? Those gorgeous sheets of pasta can layer so much more than this! I began to consider other meat-fruit pairings and eventually this came to me. Replace the beef with pork, the tomato sauce with cider gravy and the oregano/parsley/basil with sage. These three swaps worked wonders. Though it make look like a creation of Frankenstein, it tasted absolutely divine. Like if a Lasagne and a Roast Dinner had a baby that they bathed in apple sauce.
Of course, feel free to replace the Sage Derby with any other, less luminescent cheese, but where’s the fun in that?
- Lasagne Sheets
- Cubed Pancetta/Bacon
For the Meat Filling
- Lean Pork Mince – around 250-300g per person
- Apple Cider
- A couple of apples
- A few onions
- A leek or two
- Stock cubes (vegetable or pork)
For the Cheese Filling
- Pot of Ricotta
- Tub of Standard Cream Cheese
- Ball of Mozarella
- Decent wedge of any other saltier, stronger cheese (sage derby, cheddar, traditionally Parmesan)
- 1 Egg
- Dried/Fresh Sage (or both)
The Pork Filling
- Melt a decent chunk of butter into a large saucepan and add a few sliced onions and leeks. Cook over a medium heat with a sprinkling of salt until soft and translucent.
- Add the pork mince and diced apples and continue to cook, breaking up and mixing the mince well. When it has all started to brown add another knob of butter, cover and allow to cook for a few more minutes.
- Add a generous helping of flour – roughly 1.5 tablespoons per person. Maybe a tad more (this can always be adjusted later) and stir through. Recover and cook for a few more minutes.
- Stir the mixture again, then pour in enough cider to roughly reach the top of the mince. Stir and simmer until it thickens nicely. Add a stock cube or two and a few teaspoons of dried sage and allow the continue simmering, partially covered, while you get everything else ready, if not longer. Taste and adjust seasoning every now and then as the flavours develop.
- If your mixture is too wet (who likes a lasagne that just droops sadly on the plate?) mix a few teaspoons of flour and water in a bowl and add.
Side note – my mixture was a little pale for my liking so just for cosmetic factor, I added a splash of gravy browning.
The Cheese Filling
- Cut the mozarella into small cubes and combine in a bowl with the ricotta and cream cheese.
- Grate the other cheese and add most to the bowl, along with an egg and a few teaspoons of sage. If using fresh, briefly dunk in some boiling water before chopping and adding to the mixture. A crack of black pepper doesn’t go amiss either.
The Layering Process
- Heat your oven to around 200C.
- If using dried lasagne sheets, soak in some warm water with a splash of olive oil for a few minutes, just to begin softening them up a little. I far prefer fresh – easier to work with and not much more expensive.
- Everybody layers differently. I like to go meat-cheese-pasta and repeat a few times, using roughly 2:1 ratio of meat:cheese. Then for the final layer leave the cheese exposed, grate over the last of the extra cheese and top with some pancetta/lardon type things.
- If using fresh pasta, bake for around 20 minutes, or until the top layer is melted and crisping. If using dried it may take up to twice as long. To ensure the pasta has softened, poke a knife or skewer into the middle.
- ALLOW TO STAND for at least 10 minutes after removing from the oven before touching it. Nobody can eat it that hot anyway, and you need to give it time to thicken and set a little.
I served with a small apple side salad and a silly little apple-rose in the top, but of course, this is lasagne. What else could you really need?!