This is a great dish to make for a weekend meal as it does take a bit of time, but the results are worth it. This dish will feed a family of 6 and you'll still have left-overs to take to work the next day. Obviously you don't need to make your own pasta for this dish if you prefer to save time, just buy pre-made egg pasta sheets or dried, either way they'll all work equally well.
TOMATO MEAT FILLING
Light olive oil for cooking
4 zucchini, cut lengthways into very thin strips
3 plump garlic cloves, minced
1 small brown onion, peeled + finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
8 slices round thinly cut pancetta, cut into small pieces
1.2kg ground beef
1/3 cup milk
3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 1/2 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
Good pinch chilli flakes
8-10 large basil leaves, roughly torn
Small handful fresh oregano leaves
2 cups (500ml) red wine
Salt + freshly ground black pepper
100g plain (or pasta 00) flour
1.2 litres milk
Pinch ground nutmeg
175g Parmesan cheese, grated
6 free-range medium-sized eggs
600g pasta 00 flour
Splash olive oil
Extra Parmesan cheese, grated
Spray a non-stick griddle pan or frying pan and a little olive oil, chargrill the zucchini until browned on both sides, remove strips and rest on paper towel then gather up all strips and chop finely. Set aside
Add 1 teaspoon or two of olive oil into a large non-stick pot and warm over medium heat, add the pancetta then fry for a further 4-5 minutes until browned, remove from the pot and allow to drain of excess oil on paper towel.
Pour a further tablespoon of olive into the same pot, add the chopped onion and minced garlic, cook, stirring often for 4-5 minutes until onion is softened - taking care not to let the garlic burn - toss in the celery and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes or until slightly softened.
Add the ground beef to the pot along with the milk and fry over medium-heat for 10-12 minutes or until browned through. Add in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic, chilli flakes, cooked pancetta, herbs and red wine, stir then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer sauce over low-medium heat for 1 hour, stirring often.
To make the béchamel sauce, add the butter to a pan and melt over low-medium heat, add the flour and beat together with a wooden spoon to form a thick paste (it will clump together ~ this is fine), cook stirring often for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the milk 100ml at a time whisking constantly and firmly as you go until you achieve a smooth, lump-free sauce. Add the nutmeg and cheese and stir to combine. You can beat in a little extra milk if you like to keep the sauce smooth and velvety. Cover pot and remove from heat. Set aside until required.
Preheat oven to 180˚C.
To make the fresh pasta, sift flour into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre into which you add 5 full eggs, 1 egg yolk and the splash of olive oil. Using clean hands, combine the flour and eggs, incorporating the flour into the eggs and oil. Do this until you have a dough. Turn out onto a clean and floured surface and knead for 10-12 minutes until you achieve a silky dough. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Note: you can make the pasta in a food processor if you prefer.
Using a pasta maker, roll out the pasta dough in batches starting from the thickest setting and finishing on the second thinnest. Be careful not to make the pasta too thin. If you are using a Kitchen Aid roller attachment, setting 5 will produce the best results for flat sheets, if you're using a hand-roller, the 2nd last setting will normally be fine. Lie sheets in a floured surface and cut into lengths suitable to fit your baking dish. Note: the dish I used to make this lasagne measured: 26cm x 38cm x 6cm*. Allow sheets to dry for 20 minutes.
Half-fill 2 large pots with water, set one beside your cook top and the other on top of your cooker, the latter into which you add a good pinch of salt and a small glug of olive oil. Bring to the boil over high heat. Add the pasta sheets in batches, cook for 3-4 minutes then plunge each sheet into the cold water in the second pot. Allow sheets to rest in-between clean tea-towels as you cook the remainder of the pasta.
To assemble the lasagne, spoon some of the tomato meat sauce into the bottom of the baking dish and spread out, scatter a little of the zucchini on top then add some of the béchamel and carefully spread out evenly, top with sheets of the par-cooked pasta, then repeat with process layering meat sauce/zucchini/béchamel/pasta until you fill the dish. Top the last layer of pasta with the remaining béchamel sauce and cover the liberally with grated parmesan cheese.
Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden brown. Serve hot with a green salad.