This recipe is from a section of Supper that documents a simple béchamel sauce and the many ways to use it, one of which of course is in a lasagne. The combination of a rich béchamel with cavolo nero, creamy ricotta and a slightly spiced sausage creates a hearty, warming dish that’s perfect as the days start to get colder.
Photography: Laura Edwards
For the Béchamel Sauce
700g whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig, leaves finely chopped
1 rosemary sprig, leaves finely chopped
50g plain flour
nutmeg for grating
50g Parmesan, grated
50g Cheddar, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small white onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled but squashed
For the lasagne
200g cavolo nero
olive oil, for drizzling
350g leeks or red onions, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
butter, for greasing
300–350g dried lasagne sheets
75g your preferred cheese for topping
freshly ground black pepper
thyme leaves, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 180° fan.
Prepare the béchamel. If you have time, I recommend infusing the milk. Heat the milk with the bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, and optional onion and garlic, in a large saucepan. Once simmering, remove from the heat and let it infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the milk.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the flour over a medium heat. Add the milk in 4 stages, whisking well and allowing the mixture to thicken in between. Whisk out all lumps before adding more milk. If you haven’t infused the milk, add the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary during the first addition. Keep adding the milk until it is used up and your sauce is glossy. Season well and add a grating of nutmeg. Stir in the cheeses and season. Cover and set aside. Remove the bay leaf before using.
Once ready, whisk in the additional milk (you can add a wee splash
of cream if you are looking for something extra-silky). This extra liquid is necessary when using dried pasta sheets, as they absorb much more moisture than you expect. Although the béchamel will feel quite thin, it will thicken up when baking.
Remove the stalks from the cavolo nero and finely chop them, then cut the leaves into rough pieces. Heat the oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat. Add the sliced cavolo nero stalks along with the leeks and cook until softened and beginning to colour. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes, then add the chopped cavolo nero leaves and cook until softened. Remove the greens from the pan and set aside in a bowl.
Place the pan back on the heat. Remove the sausage meat from its casings and add to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat up into smaller pieces. Cook for 5 minutes over a high heat or until well coloured all over.
To assemble, grease a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 in) baking tin (pan). Pour a fifth of the béchamel into the base and top with 4 lasagne sheets. Spoon over a third of the greens, then a third of the sausage meat, then another fifth of the béchamel and lastly a third of the ricotta. Add a further 4 sheets of lasagne, then repeat this process until the fillings are all used up (you should have a fifth of the béchamel left over for the topping). Finish with a final 4 sheets of lasagne, then spoon over the last of the béchamel. Grate your favourite cheese over the top, then grind over some black pepper, add a little drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of thyme leaves.
Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through and soft when a knife is inserted into the middle.
Throughout the various lockdowns over the pandemic, Flora began cooking up what she called #FridayFeasts using recipes from cookbooks, friends and her own, all to keep her going at a difficult time. The result was her third cookbook, Supper. Filled with beautiful photography and creative, delicious recipes for dinners, whether for two or for a crowd, it’s the perfect companion for slow, evening cooking. Supper by Flora Shedden (Hardie Grant, £22) Photography by Laura Edwards.