Lasagna is a traditional Italian delicacy made with sheets of pasta layered alternatively with sauces, herbs and meats. It is then topped up with a nice thick layer of cheese to finish it up. It is a dish that is flavorful, yet simple to make. However, it can be a little time consuming; patience and precision is of the essence.
There is something about Italian cuisine that has always intrigued me. As a child, I was fussy and I wouldn’t want to try new things; the regularly cooked Mangalorean food was my absolute favorite. But growing up, I took a liking towards pizza and the homemade mince and pasta that my mom would cook every once in a while. Then one day, many years ago, she cooked a minced beef in red sauce lasagna; after which there was no turning back!
Cooking Italian is always an exciting challenge – the reason I say it’s a challenge, is because such few ingredients are go into the dish and every distinct flavor has to shine through perfectly. The balance of all the flavors is key. The challenge is to get that balance right.
I came across this recipe sometime last summer; I was looking for chicken lasagna recipes and I came across this. I was both thrilled and skeptical about it at the same time – I really wasn’t sure how it would turn out. But then my mom cooked it, and my brother, my boyfriend and I absolutely loved it! It was perfect – better that the one with beef, I reckon!
Now a year later, after months of my boyfriend asking my mum to make him that lasagna, and subsequently him asking me over and over again for the same, I decided to take up the challenge. I must admit, I am a complete amateur when it comes to cooking Italian – the only thing I know how to make is Chicken Alfredo Pasta. But lucky for me – I am blessed with a knack for cooking and that usually means that my cooking experiments almost never turn out completely horrible. (It also means that I curl like a depressed kitten when they do go bad!)
So here’s what you’re going to need.
- Store bought lasagna leaves
- 4 chicken breasts – sliced and marinated with garlic, soy sauce and some salt and then shallow fried till tender and juicy
- Red sauce,
- White sauce
- Fresh basil leaves (I used dried basil herbs).
- A pack of sliced cheese
For the Red Sauce:
- Tomatoes – diced
- Minced garlic
- Onions – cubed
- Tomato puree
- Salt – to taste
- Basil herbs
- Dried rosemary – a pinch
- A pinch of sugar
The preparation for the red sauce is really easy. Saute the onions in olive oil until they turn translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add tomatoes and increase the heat so that they mush up quickly. Then add in the tomato puree -I used two sachets. Add, salt, sugar, and the herbs and bring it to a boil.
For the White Sauce:
- Butter- 2 tbsp
- Flour – 2 tbsp
- Milk – 1 cup
- Black pepper powder
Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for about two minutes while you keep stirring continuously to make sure that the flour doesn’t become lumpy. Gradually stir in milk and continue to stir till sauce thickens. Then add salt and pepper and your sauce is ready.
Now all your elements of the lasagna are ready. It’s time to layer it! You can layer it any way you like, but this is how I did it. I coated the bottom of a deep microwavable dish with white sauce, then I layered the lasagna leaves over which I poured some red sauce and sprinkled some dried basil. I then put in another layer of lasagna leaves and poured white sauce over it, topped it with a layer of chicken and sprinkled dried basil. Then in went another layer of lasagna leaves, topped with tomato sauce, chicken, another layer of leaves and then white sauce. I then topped this tall layered preparation with a last layer of lasagna leaves and finished it off with some sliced cheese and lightly sprinkled basil on the top. Once you’re done with this, pop the dish into your microwave oven on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the the lasagna leaves are cooked through, and the cheese has melted and looks inviting. Take it out of the oven and serve immediately!
This is what the end product looks like.
P.S. – it is almost impossible to get a portion of lasagna to pose for you!
See how tempting that looks? Trust me, one spoonful in your mouth and you’re going to enjoy the sweetness of the red sauce, the creamy richness of the white sauce, the tenderness of the barbecue chicken, the strong hint of basil, the lasagna leaves holding it all together and the best bit – the melted cheeeesy topping!
Dig right in!