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Layer upon layer of lasagne

I WAS introduced to lasagne by a cat. No, a feline chef didn't whip some up for me in his kittycat kitchen. I first found out about this classic Italian dish by reading Garfield comics as a child.

Garfield was obsessed with lasagne and loved it as much as he loathed Mondays, so, going on his recommendation, I thought I'd give lasagne a taste test. And he was right - lasagne was definitely worth drooling over.

In Lasagne, Sandra Mahut shares more than 30 dishes that would impress any pasta fan. Sausage and ricotta, salmon and parmesan, lamb and pea, pork and porcini - those are just some of the mouthwatering lasagne variations included in her book.

She also covers the principles of lasagne making such as sauces, pasta sheets, cheese and flavourings.

Inspired by these recipes, as a dedicated lasagne lover I think I'll make some for my four-year-old daughter this weekend ... so she doesn't have to learn about lasagne from a comic-book cat.

Cheddar and chorizo lasagne

SERVES: 6

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

500g tomato passata

1 tbs tomato puree

150 ml vegetable stock

3 sprigs of thyme (or 3 tsp dried thyme)

Salt and black pepper

12 sheets of dried or fresh lasagne

200g chorizo sausage, finely sliced

250g (2 cups) grated cheddar

CREAMY BECHAMEL:

50g butter

50g (½ cup) plain flour

300ml vegetable stock

300ml single (pouring) cream

30g (1/4 cup) grated cheddar

2 tsp paprika

Gratin dish 40 x 20cm

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Pour in the passata and tomato puree, add a little vegetable stock and stir well. Add 2 thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried thyme, and season with salt and pepper.

For the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat.

Add the flour and salt then whisk continuously until it forms a paste.

Pour in the vegetable stock and cream, little by little, whisking constantly. The sauce should thicken and become smooth. Add the cheese, paprika and season with salt.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Pour 1 ladleful of bechamel sauce into the bottom of a gratin dish.

Lay 3 sheets of lasagne, side by side, and then alternate layers of tomato sauce, lasagne, tomato sauce, chorizo, bechamel sauce and lasagne. Repeat the process, finishing with a little bechamel sauce.

Top with cheddar, sprinkle with the remaining thyme and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

This is an edited extract from from Lasagne by Sandra Mahut, published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $19.99 and available in stores nationally. Photographer: © Sandra Mahut.



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