For me, many of Italy’s dishes are feel-good comfort food. And countless dishes have been embraced by other cultures and countries and become firm favourites. Indeed, the bible of the French kitchen Larousse Gastronomique, makes the concession that ‘Italian cooking can be considered for all countries of Latin Europe, as a veritable mother cuisine.’

Lasagne (or lasagna) is an all-time favourite in Italy. It is thought to have originated in the city of Naples during the Middle Ages. However, in the culinary literature of ancient Greece there are references to combing layers of pasta and sauce, the name coming from the method by which it was made.

Although lasagne takes time to assemble, it is a scrumptious meal-in-one dish to serve family or friends. A crisp green salad to refresh the palate post main is all that is required to complete the meal. Unless you wish to indulge in the ‘pick-me-up’ — tiramisu.

Traditionally this dessert was layers of coffee liqueur-soaked cake with grated chocolate and a rich custard — these days replaced with mascarpone. Over the years the dessert has been manipulated by chefs and cooks — including me when I found the coffee liqueur bottle was empty. Adding gin adds a sharp buzz to this delicious sweet treat!


Based on a yummy recipe from an Italian friend. However, I’ve made it gluten-free. It’s not as rich as many lasagnes.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 each: medium onion, carrot
3 cloves garlic, crushed
750g lean minced beef
700ml bottle passata
400g can diced tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon each: dried oregano, basil
salt and pepper to taste
Bechamel Sauce: 50g butter
4 tablespoons cornflour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
Lasagne: 6 sheets gluten-free lasagne
500g fresh mozzarella, drained and shredded

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or saucepan. Sauté the onion and carrot until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.

Add the beef gradually pressing any lumps out with a fork. Cook until lightly coloured. Add the passata, tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Season. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until thick.

Meanwhile prepare the bechamel sauce. I prefer to do this in the microwave as the sauce can often stick and burn in a saucepan. 

Microwave the butter in a large microwave-proof bowl until melted. Stir in the cornflour until smooth. Gradually stir in 1 cup of milk. Microwave for 2 minutes until hot. Stir well. Cook until thick then stir in the remaining milk until smooth. Microwave again until thick. Stir well. Stir in the parmesan until melted.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. 

Lightly grease a 28cm x 20cm x 7cm baking pan. Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce on the base. Top evenly with 3 sheets of the lasagne. Cover with 2 cups of the meat sauce, half the bechamel and half the mozzarella. Top with the remaining lasagne sheets, meat sauce and mozzarella.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serves 6. 


300g dried fettuccine
4-6 rashers bacon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried sage 
1 1/2 cups cocktail tomatoes, halved
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons each: finely grated Parmesan cheese, parsley

Cook the fettuccine according to the instructions on the pack.

Chop the bacon and sauté in a large frying pan, until crisp. Add the herbs and the tomatoes and heat through. Stir in the sour cream. Season. Heat through gently.

Serve over the fettuccine. Top with the Parmesan and parsley. Serves 4.


If you can’t procure shin on the bone use gravy beef or oxtail.

2kg shin on the bone, cut into 3-4cm thick rounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste 
1 each: large onion, large carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
400g can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup each: good beef stock, red wine
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, oregano, paprika
Gremolata: 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
finely grated rind 1 lemon
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

Preheat the oven to 160°C. 

In a large Dutch oven or saucepan suitable for the oven, brown the meat in the oil in batches. Remove the meat and season.

Add the onion, carrot and garlic to the pan and stir-fry for about 6 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the tomatoes and juice, stock, wine, herbs and paprika. Return the meat to the pan and bring to the boil.

Cover and cook for 3 hours in the oven or until the meat is tender. Alternatively, cook in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours.

Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the gremolata.

Remove the meat to a warm serving dish. Skim any fat from the cooking liquid. Simmer the liquid until slightly thickened. Spoon over the meat and sprinkle with gremolata. 

Great served with a creamy polenta. Serves 6.


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