Pork, Sage & Mascarpone Lasagne Bake

Christ no, not my photo – what do you take me for, some sort of professional?

Hello beauties.

The degree is over. It is done. I am a free woman. Yipee.

I’ve celebrated so far by going camping, climbing, skiing, hillwalking, and having some back-garden-barbecues with pals. I’ve made sangria, burned sausages, and cracked 7 eggs into a jam jar for journalism purposes. You’ll find out about that a bit later.

The reason for sharing this charming little recipe is that we’re moving out of our lovely Edinburgh flat at the end of May, and had an abundance of lasagne sheets which need using up. A lasagne tends only to need 9-10 pasta sheets but they come in boxes of 20ish, and then you buy more in case you don’t have enough for next time. We have approximately 56,000 lasagne sheets in our communist food cupboard because of this trippy lasagne supply-demand issue.

This isn’t proper lasagne by any stretch of the imagination but it’s obnoxiously rich, gooey and filling, making an excellent grey-day tea. Speaking of grey, I found some very dodgy looking pork mince on reduced in Lidl and 600g of mushrooms for 20p so they’re both in there, along with a quarter of a bottle of wine that I’d forgotten about (Yes, yes, I know, but my essays are better when I don’t write them drunk. I’ve tried).

This isn’t a quick recipe, but it is cheap and gives you lots of leftovers to microwavé and burn your mouth on.

To serve like, possibly 4ish maybe, you’ll need:

500g of pork mince

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

3-4 garlic cloves

A squodge of tomato paste

1/4 of a bottle of red wine

A pack of mushrooms, diced.

A bunch of sage

A tub of mascarpone or any other cream cheese like ricotta or even bloody philly – that’ll do

Bit of parmesan

Salt/black pepper

Some lasagne sheets (you’ll have loads, I take it)

I made this in a 800g loaf tin because I am a heathen.

Right, what you’re gonna do first is brown your mince off. I actually didn’t use onions at all in this and for the life of me can’t remember why. You’re more than welcome to go ahead and use some onions if it makes you happy.

Tip your mince in a large wide frying pan with a dribble of olive oil and break it up, seasoning with lots of salt and black pepper as you go. Fry this until the water has evaporated off and it’s starting to colour nicely, then transfer it into a large high-sided pot with a lid. Leave some of the fat from the mince in the frying pan and gently fry off some thin slices of garlic and some chopped sage, before adding the mushrooms to cook down and colour. You may want to add some more olive oil or butter here because mushrooms are very thirsty wee babies. When that’s looking lush, add all it to the big mince pot, along with a can of chopped tomatoes, some tomato paste and the red wine. Give it all a big stir then bring to the boil for 5 or so minutes. Then, turn it down to medium so it’s bubbling like an angry mud monster for a bit. If it’s looking dry add a splash of water from the kettle. Now, turn the heat right down and forget about it for an hour or so, stirring occasionally. Taste it for seasoning when you like, but the magic happens as the proteins and fat in the meat break down and mingle with the tomatoes and wine which will only happen after a wee while. The longer you cook this for the better – lid on, heat low, and topping up with wine or water if it looks at all dry.

Normally when I make lasagne I never bother pre-cooking the pasta sheets but I didn’t know how much liquid would come out of this one and I didn’t make bechamel, so I did indeed pre-cook them, just in case. Pour a kettle of water into the frying pan from earlier, bring it to the boil and lay in about 10 lasagne sheets, some of them broken in half. Cook them til they’re just going floppy, then take them out and drained them on kitchen paper. I told you this wasn’t going to be quick.

When your ragu has gone a deep rusty brown colour and your flatmates comment on the umami smell that their clean washing is being infused with, it’s time to assemble. Using any dish you like, plop a ladle or two of of ragu in the bottom and shake it about. Dot with teaspoons of marscapone and a grating of parmesan and stick a layer of pasta on top. You really, seriously don’t need to be careful about this. Hell, you could even mix it all together without the layers and it’d still slap. Keep going with the layers/mess until your dish is full or your ingredients are used up, whatever comes first. Freeze any leftover ragu for unseasonably wet days later on this summer. Top with a final grating of parmesan, dots of mascarpone, and possibly even some nutmeg, and bake in the oven at 180ish for about 45 minutes.

You’ll need a sharp green salad with this, possibly with watercress and rocket. It really is stupidly rich so something zingy to counter it will be lovely. Failing that, have some lemon sorbet after. Or lick a battery.

Oh, and as a side note, I cooked too many lasagne sheets so fried them off in butter with a bit more sage and served them to my pals as an abuse-mouche. Highly recommend.

Enjoy, fun-monkeys.

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