“When you’re dealing with leftovers, you never quite know how it’s going to turn out. But if you sweat off a load of beautiful vegetables, add a little garlic, some herbs, leftover cooked meats, stock or wine and a little tomato, after a little bit of simmering it will be heavenly. ”
Make your dough first. Place the flour on a board or in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Beat the egg until smooth, then pour it into the well.
Using the tips of your fingers, gradually mix the egg with the flour until combined.
Knead the bits of dough into one smooth lump. You can also do this step in a food processor – just whiz the flour and egg until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Tip onto a work surface and bring together with your hands.
Knead the dough to develop the gluten; this makes your pasta springy instead of flabby when you cook it. There’s no secret to kneading – you just have to bash the dough around a bit with your hands, squashing it into the table, reshaping it, stretching it and squashing it again. Stop when your pasta starts to feel smooth and silky. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.
It’s not the end of the world if you haven’t got a pasta machine, just use a rolling pin. The problem you’ll have is getting the pasta thin enough to work with. The way around this is to roll lots of small pieces. You’ll be rolling your pasta into a more circular shape than you’ll get from a machine.
If using a machine, make sure it’s firmly clamped to a clean, long work surface. Dust the surface with flour, then take a lump of dough the size of a large orange and press it out flat with your fingertips.
Set the pasta machine at its widest setting and roll the dough through it. Lightly dust the pasta with flour if it sticks.
Click the machine down a setting and roll the dough through again. Fold the dough in half, click the machine back up to the widest setting and roll it through again. Repeat 5 or 6 times.
Work the dough through all the machine’s settings, from the widest to the narrowest. Lightly dust both sides of the dough with flour every time you run it through. When you reach the narrowest setting, fold the dough in half, then in half again, then once more into a squarish piece of dough.
Turn it 90 degrees and feed it through the machine at the widest setting. As you roll through the settings for the last time, you should get a silky, rectangular sheet of pasta with straight edges.
For the lasagne sheets needed in these recipes, keep rolling the pasta until it’s somewhere between the thickness of a beer mat and a playing card.
Cut the pasta into 10cm x 20cm sheets. It dries faster than you might think, so don’t wait more than a minute or two to cut it. Lay a damp tea towel on top of the pasta to help prevent it drying out.
Peel and finely slice the garlic. Peel all the onions, finely chop 3 and cut the remaining onion into wedges. Trim and finely chop the celery and carrots, and pick and finely chop the rosemary.
Heat a good lug of oil in a large, deep saucepan. Fry the garlic over a medium heat for 1 minute, or until golden. Add the finely chopped onions to the pan with the carrot and celery. Fry over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the veg are soft but not coloured.
Add the rosemary, oregano, tomatoes, wine and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper, and bring to the boil, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 1 hour, or until thickened.
Chop up the meat or pulse in a food processor, then stir into the ragù for the final 15 minutes, or until the meat is heated through and the sauce is thick, rich and glossy. Stir the sauce regularly and loosen with a splash of boiling water from the kettle if it’s too thick for your liking.
When the ragù is almost there, preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4 and start your béchamel sauce. Pour the milk into a large saucepan over a low heat. Add the peppercorns and the remaining onion and gently bring almost to the boil.
Melt the butter in a second saucepan. Stir in the flour to create a paste and cook over a medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Whisk in the hot milk, a ladleful at a time (discard the onion and peppercorns). Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until you have a thick, smooth sauce. Grate and stir in most of the Parmesan and season to taste.
Grease a large rectangular or round baking dish with a little oil and bring a pan of salted water to the boil.
Add the lasagne sheets to the pan, a few sheets at a time, and cook for 1 minute or so per batch. Remove the pasta with tongs and spread out on a clean tea towel to drain.
Drape a single layer of lasagne over the base of the baking dish. Spread over a thin layer of ragù, top with another layer of pasta and then spread over a thin layer of béchamel sauce.
Repeat as many times as you can (6 to 8, ideally), finishing with a layer of pasta topped with béchamel sauce.
Tear over the mozzarella, then finish with the remaining grated Parmesan and a drizzle of oil. Pick and scatter over the basil leaves.
Bake the lasagne in the oven for 45 minutes, or until golden on top and bubbling at the edges. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.