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Classic Lasagne with Basil and Béchamel Sauce

20 February 2021

I think lasagne was one of the first dishes I started making from scratch myself. As a kid we used to make it from a packet, I really loved it at the time but I didn’t know any better I guess. It’s definitely one of the dishes I make when I have some time to slowly cook a sauce and am in the mood for something comforting. It’s also a great dish to make ahead of time, just prep a whole batch of sauce and pop it in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to make the lasagne.

This version is with a béchamel sauce, I prefer to make this on the day itself, but you can also leave it out if you’re not in the mood for the hassle or strapped for time. Having said that, béchamel sauce is done under 10 minutes and I just love the cheesy creaminess it adds to the dish.

Classic Lasagne with Basil and Béchamel Sauce

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Dinner Italian
By Saffron Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: Sauce 1 hour, lasagne 40 minutes Total Time: 2 hours


  • Tomato sauce
  • 500 g ground beef
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1.5 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 cans (400 g each) peeled tomatoes
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 beef or vegetable stock cube
  • Pepper & Salt to season
  • 1 tbsp pesto (optional, see notes)
  • Béchamel sauce
  • 500ml milk
  • 4 tbsp / 60 g butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • Lasagne
  • 1 packet dried lasagne sheets, I used 12 sheets
  • 300 - 400 g grated cheese, I used mozzarella but other basic shredded cheeses will work as well
  • 1 large bunch basil, washed, patted dry and roughly chopped (optional, see notes)


The Sauce (10 minutes prep ingredients, 15 minutes sautéing, 1 hour simmering)


Chop and prep all your ingredients so you're ready to go.


Heat a heavy based sauce pan and add in the ground beef (no oil needed), keep stirring. Sauté until the beef is just cooked through and starting to brown. Remove from the pan, including the meat juices and set aside.


Add a drop of olive oil to the sauce pan and add the onions. Sauté on a medium heat until fragrant and translucent, ± 5 minutes.


Add the garlic and sauté along for another 2 minutes.


Add the carrots and celery and sauté for ± 3 minutes until starting to soften.


Add the oregano and the tomato paste and give it a good stir, keep sautéing and stirring for ± 3 minutes, but don't let the tomato paste burn.


Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping all the yummy crusty bits from the bottom of the pan.


Add the ground beef and the resting juices back into the pan and stir through.


Add the 2 cans of tomatoes and with the back of your spatula break and squish open the tomatoes to help the sauce along.


Fill 1 of the cans 3/4 full with water and add this to the sauce.


Add the stock cube, sugar and bay leaves.


Stir through, bring to a boil and let simmer with lid on at low heat for ± 1 hour. Remove the lid for the last 20 minutes of cooking.


If the sauce is too thin, continue to simmer without the lid until it reduces.


Taste and season with pepper & salt.

Béchamel Sauce (10 minutes)


Add the butter to a small sauce pan (low-medium heat), when melted add the flour and whisk through.


Keep whisking for about a minute, until it turns a slightly darker yellow colour, it will start to bubble up.


Slowly add in the milk, drop by drop. Keep whisking so no lumps form.


Turn the heat up a bit and let the sauce cook for ± 6-7 minutes until it starts to thicken. Keep stirring!


Grate in the nutmeg and mix through.


Take off the heat and mix through the parmesan until the cheese is melted through.


Taste and season with pepper and salt

The Lasagne (5 minutes assembly, 40 minutes cooking)


Preheat the oven to 200°C.


Use a large baking dish (±20 x 30 cm).


Spoon about 1 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, then cover with lasagna sheets. Press the sheets down to get rid of any air bubbles.


Pour in ± 2 cups of tomato sauce (or enough to cover pasta), 1 cup of béchamel and cover with a layer of basil leaves (if using).


Cover with pasta sheets and press the sheets down to get rid of any air bubbles.


Repeat with the rest of the ingredients making sure to end with a layer of tomato and béchamel sauce.


Top with the grated cheese and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and bubbling.


  • I still had some pesto lying around in the fridge so I added this to the sauce, it gives a nice little extra flavour, but it's not necessary for the sauce
  • I also had a whole bunch of basil lying around in the fridge which really needed to be finished so I added it as 2 layers in the lasagne. It gives a great extra flavour to the lasagne, but you really don't need to if you'd rather not.

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