A piece of my heart will forever be in Buenos Aires – a vibrant, hectic and culturally rich city where I spent almost three years during my twenties. Beyond traditional dishes like Argentine steak and empanadas, much of the country’s cuisine was brought and developed by Italian immigrants who arrived there en masse from the 1850s onwards. A favourite dish of mine was always lasagne, prepared in its own Argentine way and featuring the smoky taste of aji molido (smoked red pepper powder) and black olives which add a natural saltiness and depth to the dish.
After becoming gluten free, I quickly released that coming across a lasagne that was safe for me to eat – in my Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Almagro and beyond – was a rare luxury, not only due to the pasta but also the stock used in the sauce. So, in honour of Coeliac Awareness Week, I have recreated this dish to make it safe for coeliacs to enjoy with friends and family. Thanks to Knorr, who create the best tasting and fuss-free stock I have ever had, this dish is bursting with flavour and completely gluten free. Knorr has been a household name ever since I remember, and I am pleased to shout about its efforts for the gluten free community. Be sure to enjoy this dish with some homemade garlic bread and a glass of strong bodied Malbec for the true Argentine experience.
For the Lasagne Filling:
1 x White Onion (Finely Chopped)
4 x Garlic Cloves
2 x Celery Sticks (Finely Chopped)
1 x Large Carrot (Finely Chopped)
800g Chopped Tomatoes in Juice
500g Lean Minced Beef
400g Gluten Free Sausage Meat or Sausages (Casing Removed)
160g Drained Black Olives
1 x Tablespoon Knorr Rich Beef Concentrated Stock
2 x Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 x Cup Red Wine
½ x Cup Boiling Water
2 x Bay Leaves
½ Teaspoon Dried Basil
½ x Tablespoon Gluten Free Worcestershire Sauce
1 x Teaspoon Aji Molido
250g Gluten Free Lasagne Sheets
300g Fresh Mozzarella (Diced)
100g Parmesan (Grated)
For the Béchamel Sauce:
1 x Tablespoon Butter
1 x White Onion
3 x Cups Milk
3 x Tablespoons Gluten Free Flour
1 x Cup White Wine
½ x Knorr Vegetable Stock Cube
½ x Teaspoon Nutmeg
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a shallow pan over moderate heat. Add the beef and sausage meat to the pan and cook until brown (around 8 minutes), stirring occasionally and at the same time breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.
- Meanwhile, take a separate, good sized cooking pot and warm the rest of the oil over moderate heat before adding the chopped onion, celery, carrot and whole peeled garlic cloves. Stir until all vegetables are soft, taking care to not burn the onion.
- Turn attention back to the meat once cooked through and drain fat. Then add beef to the vegetables, stirring through to make sure all vegetables are evenly dispersed throughout the mixture.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, olives, wine and boiling water to the pot. Stir well.
- Now add the Knorr Rich Beef Concentrated Stock, along with the gluten free Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, dried basil and aji molido before stirring again and leaving to simmer for 30 minutes with a splatter guard covering the top of the pot. This will help the mixture cook down and also protect your surfaces!
- While your lasagne mixture is cooking, start preparing the béchamel by sautéing the finely chopped onion in butter over moderate heat in a medium saucepan.
- When onion is soft, add milk and let the milk almost come to boil (but not quite!) before removing from heat and whisking in the flour. Whisk vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine, nutmeg and crumbled Knorr vegetable stock cube and using a hand blender, blend the mixture until smooth.
- Return béchamel to heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. The sauce will still be fairly thin and pale in colour. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add 1 teaspoon of flour and whisk again. However, the consistency should not put you off – it blends beautifully with the lasagne filling during the baking process.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees and start arming your lasagne.
- Take a medium sized lasagne dish and create layers: after removing bay leaves, ladle in one spoon of the meat mixture and smooth out to cover bottom of dish, then lay down lasagne sheets (I tend to use three sheets per layer).
- On top of the lasagne sheets, drizzle one ladle of béchamel sauce and smooth out to just about cover the sheets before adding an even sprinkling of fresh mozzarella and torn basil leaves on top. Repeat, leaving enough béchamel to cover the entire top layer which will then be dusted in grated parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until evenly golden brown.
- Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving and garnish with more fresh basil and mixed leaves.