We visited Verona some years ago and stopped for a light lunch in Piazza Bra, at one of the many green canopy covered restaurants that border the beautiful square that houses the Arena. It was February, but warm enough to sit outside under one of the out-door heaters that all the eating places in Italy provide at that time of year. We ordered a carafe of bianco della cassa and lasagne al forno for two. The wine as expected was lightly sparkling and delicious but the slice of lasagne that we had that day was one of the best pasta dishes we have ever had in Italy and the best lasagne al forno ever. It was firm fresh pasta, a very tasty ragu, a mouthsmacking bechamel sauce with a tremendous cheese topping.

Since that day, I have tried to cook a lasagne al forno that gets close to that very special Verona dish and after many attempts, I think I am getting close to it. The secret for me is a meat sauce that requires particular ingredients and a long cooking time - at least two hours! Any shorter time and the meat sauce is not as delicious a part of the final lasagne. Try it!

Meat Sauce Ingredients:-
30g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
120g pancetta, sliced
500g minced beef
quarter teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of nutmeg
75ml dry white wine
350ml beef stock
1tbs tomato puree
2tbs double cream
1 egg, beaten

Bechamel Sauce Ingredients:-
65g butter
40g plain flour
pinch of nutmeg
600ml milk
a bay leaf
125ml double cream

Other ingredients:-
100g or 6 sheets fresh lasagne
150g mozzarella, grated
60g Parmesan, grated

  • To make the meat sauce, heat the butter in a frying pan and add the chopped vegetables, garlic and pancetta. Cook over a moderately low heat for 5 minutes or until softened and lightly golden. Add the mince beef, increase the heat a little and cook for 8 minutes or until coloured but not browned, stirring to break up the lumps. Add the oregano and nutmeg and season well. Pour in the white wine, increase the heat and cook until it has evaporated. Add the beef stock and tomato puree and simmer for 2 hours. Add a little hot water, if neccesary, during this time to keep the mixture moist, but towards the end let the liquid be absorbed. Stir in the cream, remove from the heat and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Stir in the egg.

  • Make the Bechamel sauce, while the meat is cooking. Heat the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Add the bay leaf, return to the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Season, cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming, and cool. Discard the bay leaf. When the meat sauce is ready, gently heat the bechamel sauce again and stir in the cream. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180' or gas mark 4 and grease a 22 x 15 x 7 cm ovenproof dish.
  • Cook the sheets of fresh pasta in batches in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente. Scoop out each batch with a slotted spoon as it is done and drop into a bowl of cold water. Spread the sheets out in a single layer on a tea towel, turning them over once to blot each side. 
  • Spread half the meat sauce in the dish. Scatter with half the mozzarella, then cover with a slightly overlapping layer of pasta sheets. Spread half the bechamel sauce over this and sprinkle with half the Parmesan. Repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of bechamel sauce and Parmesan.


  • Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.



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