Why a DIY white lasagna? Good question! Lasagna was never a favorite of mine pre-Brazil. Every lasagna I’d eaten till the young age of 19 was goopy, drowning in a tasteless, red water that people tried to pass off as tomato sauce. So it was that I arrived in Brazil ready to hate their spin on lasagna as well. Buuuuuuuuuut . . .
I loved it. And I asked for it every time I got a chance. In the years that I’ve been back in the US, I’ve been on a crusade to change how the average American sees the humble lasagna. And this is the first of many recipes in that effort! So get your apron, fire up your range and get those lasagna noodles — we’re making DIY white lasagna!
What’s in it?
This is a basic Italian lasagna dish and it includes basic ingredients — noodles, a (white) sauce, meat in the form of beef, and, of course, glorious cheese. Sound like the ingredients that go into any standard pasta dish? That’s because even though we don’t normally think of it like this, lasagna is a baked pasta dish! And it’s not the only one! Rigatoni, ziti are also popular baked pasta dishes.
Since this is technically a pasta dish, you can reasonably add just about anything that traditionally goes with pasta. That opens up a world of possibilities, including pesto, different cuts of meat, different sauces, and anything else that pleases your little tongue. But for right now, let’s focus on the basics with the mornay sauce we use in this lasagna.
Mornay derives from béchamel. Béchamel is a mother sauce, and I’ve covered it before. Mother sauces can be modified to make many different sauces, hence the name. When you add cheese to béchamel, it becomes mornay sauce. Usually you use parmesan and gruyere to construct the sauce — here I’ve used the more common feta in place of the gruyere. You can and should use gruyere if you have it available. And remember, since this is a white lasagna, there is no tomato sauce.
Aside from the cheese, there is also bacon placed in this mornay, alongside puréed red bell pepper and garlic. You can also season the mornay with any selection of herbs.
How do I make it?
Lasagna is made with alternating layers of sauce, cheese, meat and noodle. Since our cheese is already incorporated into the sauce, we don’t need to do an additional layer of cheese. The actual layering process is as simple as it sounds. Start with an extremely light coating of sauce, then a layer of noodles, and from there until the end, go sauce, cheese, meat and noodle, ending with a light crust of parmesan cheese.
Remember: it’s better to make many layers with a little sauce in between each layer than a few with a lot. Why? Well, you don’t want your lasagna to turn out soggy. Soggy is a hard-to-eat lasagna, and a hard-to-eat lasagna is not a fun lasagna. Here, we’re all about fun, DIY food! So make your lasagna a delicious, multi-layered pasta cake, and not a very chunky soup!
This is a fantastic dinner for when you’re trying to impress and for when you want some fancy leftovers for the rest of the week! Once you’ve mastered the basics, try out some herbed sauce or some homemade noodles! And keep coming back to enjoy some more fantastic DIY food!
- Homemade lasagna noodles (you can use store bought ones if you so desire)
- 1 lb. ground beef, nicely browned but not quite finished cooking
- 1 béchamel recipe, doubled
- 6 oz. feta
- 6 oz. parmesan
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 strips bacon, crumbled
- 2 red bell peppers, puréed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare noodles
- Cook bacon until ready to be crumbled
- Mince garlic and bell peppers
- Puree bell peppers
- Make Mornay sauce by starting with the bechamel recipe, and adding cheese until it has incorporated into the entire sauce smoothly
- Add crumbled bacon and pureed bell pepper
- Take browned beef, noodles and mornay and layer, in a 9x13 pan in the following order: Sauce, noodles, beef; continue, ending with a layer of of cheese on top.
- Bake for 45 minutes, lowering the temperature to 350 immediately after putting in the oven.