As the title, and indeed the entire concept suggests, this is an American recipe. It comes from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, accompanying a show that, having been through 12 seasons, has spawned a tie-in that weighs 28 kilos. It is quite American, with a Stepford Wives-ish flavour and chapter headings such as “Who wants pasta?”, “The Flair of the French”, and “It’s grill time!”, but it has lots of valuable advice on why the recipes work, and on what methods the team discarded before coming up with their final versions. I may become slightly obsessed with it.
My recipe is an adaptation, in part because I was cooking for a different number of people.
The only ricotta in my corner shop was Cypriot, and turned out to be quite unlike the real thing: as you can see in the picture above, slices of it remained intact when warmed.
Serves 3 to 4
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Dried chillis to taste, finely chopped (in a coffee grinder or small electric mill)
200g minced beef
200g minced pork
1 bay leaf
300g lasagne sheets (the variety that does not need pre-cooking)
500g carton passata
Water or stock
4tbsp Parmesan, grated
Warm a tbsp or 2 of olive oil over a low to medium heat in a 28cm frying pan, if you have one with a lid. (I used a shallow casserole dish.) Throw in the onion, garlic, and chillis (if using), and cook, stirring, until softened – about five minutes. Regulate the heat, and/or add more oil, if the onion threatens to catch.
Add the pork and beef mince, along with salt to taste and the bay leaf, and continue to cook until the meat is broken up and is no longer pink. (The book does not suggest that you need to brown the mince, and is in line with other recipes in giving this advice – see previous entries on Bolognese and moussaka.)
Turn the heat to its lowest. Break each lasagne sheet into four or five pieces, and lay the pieces on top of the meat. Pour over the passata, along with enough water or stock to cover the lasagne pieces.
Turn up the flame slightly to bring the contents of the pan to a simmer, then turn it down again, and put on the lid.
Stir the meat and lasagne mixture after five minutes. Try to separate the lasagne pieces, which may stick together. Put the lid back on, but keep stirring the dish regularly.
This kind of lasagne absorbs a good deal of liquid. You may find that you have to add more water or stock, particularly because the thickened mixture may threaten to stick to the pan.
The lasagne should be tender after 20 to 25 minutes. Take it off the heat, and stir in 2tbsp of Parmesan. Dot the surface with dollops of ricotta, cover again, and leave to stand for five minutes.
Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan, and serve.
I missed the béchamel. But this version was very nice in its own right.