About this recipe:This lasagne takes a long time to make (especially when you account for as many wine-drinking intervals as I do) and isn't the cheapest to make either. Making this lasagne is an event, and you bet all your guests are gonna be asking you for it again and again! Not for the faint of heart. All measurements are approximations. This is very much an 'as you feel/when it looks right' sort of recipe.
Heat a little olive oil and a knob of butter in a big pan. Add the two bay leaves. When the oil is hot, add the whole vine tomatoes. Keep the heat at a medium to low temperature. Stir the tomatoes every now and again, to ensure they are evenly fried.
When the skins begin to split and the juices start sizzling, add the cherry tomatoes, sugar, salt and black pepper. Soon the vine tomatoes will begin to disintegrate and the cherry tomatoes will be boiling in the juices of the vine tomatoes. At this point, add the tomato puree and the wine and stir. Continue simmering on a low heat and stirring occasionally.
Finely chop the onions and garlic, using all but one of the garlic cloves, which we'll save for later. Also very finely chop the red pepper.
Heat some oil in another pan. When the oil is hot, add the onions and fry until translucent. While the onions are frying, finely chop the cured meat.
When the onions are beginning to get a little colour in the pan, add the chopped garlic, cured meat and red pepper. Fry on a medium heat until the onions are a golden colour.
Add the beef mince and fry on a medium heat until the mince is evenly browned. Add the oregano, parsley, basil and cinnamon, and some more black pepper.
When the frying mix is looking and smelling pretty good and hot, begin ladling in the tomato sauce, which at this point should be mostly a thick liquid. Stir thoroughly, add the spinach and turn down the heat to a low temperature. Continue simmering and stirring occasionally.
Now we can start the bechamel sauce - this is a bit trickier if you're not used to making white sauces. Very finely chop your remaining clove of garlic, or crush it, if you have a garlic crusher. Melt the 100g of butter in a saucepan.
When the butter is sizzling, add the garlic and fry it for a minute, being careful not to burn the butter. If you're struggling with the temperature, add a little olive oil which will help prevent the butter from burning.
Now, add the plain flour. Stir it in thoroughly to form a sort of buttery dough in the pan, and let it simmer for a minute on a low heat. Add the nutmeg and Parmesan, and a little black pepper.
Pour in the milk a little splash at the time, stirring thoroughly as you go. The slower you add the milk, the less likely you are to get a lumpy sauce. At first, the dough will just grow in size. Don't worry, it will begin to turn into a sauce as you add more milk.
When your sauce is a thick, gloopy liquid consistency, add the soft cheese and 200g grated Cheddar. Keep the sauce on a low heat and stir until it is a smooth, thick consistency.
Preheat the oven to 190 C / Gas 5.
Spoon about half of the beef sauce into a baking dish and spread it out evenly. Then on top of this, a few tablespoons of the bechamel sauce. Spread it out and lay several lasagne sheets on the top. I can usually fit about three whole sheets in a dish, and then I break up some sheets to fill the remaining gaps. Obviously this depends on the shape and size of your baking dish.
Repeat the previous step once, ending with a layer of lasagne sheets. Cover the sheets in the remaining bechamel and sprinkle with the mozzarella and 200g Cheddar cheese.
Put the lasagne in the oven and bake for around 40 minutes, or until the cheese is a nice golden colour on the top.
Serve with garlic bread if you like, and lots of wine!