Nella’s lean lasagne

Nella’s lean lasagne

Lasagne in an Italian household is a very special dish.

I’ve watched my mum make her lasagne over the years, first with part cooked pasta sheets, then uncooked sheets and her recipe evolved over the years.

When I was finally trusted to make the family lasagne I was at last able to put my touches to the recipe.

It’s very easy to make a lean version of this dish and I’m delighted to share this with you.

My lasagne is tasty, pretty simple to put together, it’s not sloppy and doesn’t fall apart.

Here are my secrets to making the best lasagne and best of all it’s lean!

A word of warning, I’m all about flavour and I like to make the sauce the day before I need it to intensify the flavours.

I make this in my Sunday roasting pan that measures approx 40 x 28 x 8cm.

his is one of the many lean recipes that I’ve created where flavour and simplicity are key. There are hundreds of lean recipes in my app The Lean Cook with adjustable calories and macros.

Ingredients for 10 servings

800 g extra lean beef mince
1600 g chopped tomatoes (approx 4 tins)
30 g tomato puree
pinch sugar
50 ml water
30 g olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
2 tsp pesto
240 g lean ham
2 whole eggs, boiled and sliced
300 g mozzarella
60 g parmigiano reggiano
38 lasagne sheets
salt and pepper


  • Take a large sauce pan and put it on a medium heat.
  • Add the olive oil along with the minced beef and start to brown the mince.  As the mince browns break up any large lumps with a wooden spoon.
  • When the mince has browned add the crushed garlic and give the mince a good stir distribute the garlic.
  • Add the pesto to the pan and stir before adding the tomato puree and stir again to cook through the tomato puree.
  • Blend the tinned tomatoes so that they are smooth and add the blended tomatoes to the pan.
  • Take the tins and fill 2 with water and rinse the other 2 tins of the residual tomato and add this to your sauce.
  • Add a little seasoning at this point along with a pinch of sugar.
  • Give the sauce a good stir and it may at this point seem very watery but don’t worry as the sauce will reduce as it cooks.
  • Bring the sauce to the boil before turning the heat right down to a simmer and leave it for an hour to cook.
  • After an hour give the sauce a good stir and have a little taste to see if you need to adjust the seasoning at this point.
  • Leave the sauce on the lowest heat and leave it to cook for another hour.  As I mentioned in the recipe introduction I like to cook the sauce the day before I need it to get the best flavour, but if you plan to use it the same day then that’s fine.
  • While the sauce is cooking, prepare your other ingredients.  Boil, peel and slice the eggs, cut the ham and mozzarella into cubes and use a fine cheese grater to grate the parmesan so that it goes a long way.
  • Now to build your lasagne.
  • Your sauce will be lovely and thick from the low and slow cooking, but you now need to add approximately 50ml of water to the sauce to slacken it to help make the sauce go a little further and to cool it down.
  • Take a ladle of sauce and coat the bottom of your dish, and use a spoon to spread it to all corners.
  • The way you lay the lasagne sheets will determine if your lasagne holds it’s shape when you serve it.
  • I’ve spent years trying different ways and this works for me.  If your pan is similar in size to mine, start by laying your first sheet in the bottom left hand corner, the next sheet should slightly overlap the first sheet above and so on.
  • I have 4 sheets to the left, then 1 1/2 sheets in the middle and a further 4 overlapping sheets to the right.
  • Start by adding 2 ladles of sauce to this layer and use a spoon to spread the sauce to every corner.
  • Add more sauce if you need to as the sauce is going to be the moisture the pasta sheet need to cook when you bake it.
  • To this first layer add ham, mozzarella and finally parmesan cheese.
  • Start the second layer at the bottom right hand corner and do the reverse of the first layer.  This way you’re building a good foundation for your lasagne to keep it’s shape as you take it out of the pan.
  • As you build your lasagne alternate which side you start laying the sheets.
  • All in all you should get 4 layers of pasta sheets as you build your lasagne.
  • On layers 2 and 3 also include egg slices and your final layer, the top should be a good thick layer of sauce, mozzarella cubes and parmesan cheese.
  • Bake your lasagne in a hot oven, at 190°C fan/400°F for approximately 45 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes check the lasagne and if you feel it’s browning too quickly add a sheet of foil to protect the topping from catching.
  • When your cooking time is over, take a knife and push it through all pasta layers.  If it goes through easily the pasta sheets are cooked.
  • If you meet a little resistance give the lasagne another 10 minutes with the oven on.
  • When you’re happy the lasagne is cooked, turn the heat off, open the oven for a moment to take the heat out of the oven and leave the lasagne to rest for approximately 10 minutes.This gives you time to get your plates ready, and you’ll need a knife and large spatula/fish slice to serve your lasagne portions.
  • Take your knife and run it around the outer edge of the lasagne.
  • Then divide the lasagne equally down the middle and start to cut out your portions.
  • Using the fish slice/spatula carefully lift out the first portion and place it onto your plate.

Recipe Notes

  • A word of warning, I’m all about flavour and I like to make the sauce the day before I need it to intensify the flavours.
  • I make this in my Sunday roasting pan that measures approx 40 x 28 x 8cm.
  • Make sure your mince is extra lean, less than 6% of fat per 100g.
  • Not all brands of pesto are created equal. What I’ve found is the supermarket home brand contains more basil than the main brands. Check the ingredients label and always go for the brand with the highest percentage of basil.
  • Traditionally in Italian cooking you would use the smallest pinch of sugar to take any acidity out of the tomatoes.

Nella Foulds
Nella Foulds

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