Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne

Hello, I really hope you enjoy this post – Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne.  It’s extremely easy to make, there’s no need to precook the lasagne sheets.  This lasagne is also a lighter version than the traditional beef lasagne.  If you wanted to really cheat you could buy good cheese sauce, but it’s not a complicated process to whip up your own!

Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne - delish!
Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne – delish!

This is a perfect make ahead meal as it only gets better the longer the lasagne sits. It will keep, unbaked, in the fridge for 4 days and double wrapped in cling film, again unbaked, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.  It is also the perfect, portable meal.  Ideal for delivery to a new mum, a family going through tough times or a bring and share meal with friends.  Truly an all-in-one feasting dish!!!

A perfect, portable meal for sharing with others.
A perfect, portable meal for sharing with others.

By substituting the beef, usually used in Lasagne, with minced Chicken, the resulting baked Lasagne becomes a lighter dish. Not lighter in calories, with the delicious four cheese sauce – but not as heavy on the stomach and a delicious change from the norm!  The four cheese sauce was simply me raiding the fridge for leftover Christmas cheese!!!

The Four Cheese Sauce tops of this lasagne perfectly!!
The Four Cheese Sauce tops of this lasagne perfectly!!

I realise that minced Chicken is not  available everywhere, minced Turkey is a great substitute.  Otherwise processing skinless chicken breasts, thighs or a combination in a food processor would be another way to make your own chicken mince.  Alternatively, chopping up chicken with a sharp knife would work and give the lasagne added texture.

Recipe : Serves 6-8 portions.

Chicken Lasagne Sauce

450g/1lb  Chicken Mince

1  Large White Onion

2tbsp  Olive Oil

2  Celery Stalks (the larger outside stalks)

1  Green Pepper (washed, deseeded and finely diced)

2-3  Carrots (peeled and finely diced)

3  Garlic Cloves – minced

3 x 400g  Chopped Tinned Tomatoes

2tbsp  Tomato Puree

1tsp  Dried Mixed Herbs (or fresh basil/oregano/parsley/thyme – to taste)

1tsp  Sugar

Salt and Ground Black Pepper – to taste

Cheese Sauce :

3tbsp  Butter

3tbsp  Plain White Flour

750-800ml. Whole Milk

6oz  Hard Cheese (I used a 50/50 mixture of Mature Cheddar and Swiss Cheese)

125g  Riccota

250g. Mozzarella (drained)

1 tsp  Nutmeg – freshly grated if poss

Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste.

Butter – For Greasing the Lasagne Dish

1 packet Dried Egg Lasagne Sheets 375g – NO NEED TO PRECOOK!!!

Method: Chicken Lasagne Sauce

Finely chop/dice the onion/celery/green pepper and carrots.  Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes over a medium heat until the onions just start to turn translucent.  Add the diced celery to the pan and continue to sauté for a couple more minutes, just until the celery starts to soften.  Push the onions and celery to one side of the pan and add the Chicken mince to the other side (if you don’t have a large sauté pan, remove the onions and celery, into a separate dish and then add the Chicken to the pan).  Cook the chicken, using a wooden spatula to break up the mince so big clumps of meat don’t form.

Having a large sauté pan means you can cook all the ingredients in one go!!!
Having a large sauté pan means you can cook all the ingredients in one go!!!

Unlike beef mince, the Chicken mince will get lighter as it cooks. I don’t cook the Chicken until it is browned, just until it is cooked through (lighter colour).  Now add the carrots/green pepper and also the minced garlic (I use a garlic press!!).

Mix all the veggies and garlic with the Chicken mince. Inhale the gorgeous aroma!
Mix all the veggies and garlic with the Chicken mince. Inhale the gorgeous aroma!

When all the veggies and garlic are well mixed add the tomatoes (rinse each can out with water, fill the can almost to the top and add that to the pan as well), tomato purée, dried or fresh chopped herbs. Give everything a good stir add the sugar and add salt 1/2tsp and a good grinding of black pepper.  Turn the heat to medium/low and leave to gently bubble away on the stove for an hour, stirring occasionally.

This gorgeous Chicken, vegetable and tomato sauce just bubbles away happily on the stove! Pop the kettle on for a cuppa!!!!
This gorgeous Chicken, vegetable and tomato sauce just bubbles away happily on the stove! Pop the kettle on for a cuppa!!!!

Method: Four Cheese Sauce

Into a medium heavy based pan add the butter. Over a medium heat melt the butter until just sizzling. Add the flour and keep stirring as the two become a paste. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes, this removes any floury taste.

This is what the butter and flour should look like.
This is what the butter and flour should look like.

Now gradually start adding the milk, approx 50mls at first and stir vigorously. The milk will become incorporated into the flour/butter paste making it a thicker past. Keep adding small amounts of milk, stirring continuously.

The sauce will become very thick. DON'T WORRY!!!!
The sauce will become very thick. DON’T WORRY!!!!

Now you can add larger amounts of milk, keep stirring, lumps will form, if you want to you can switch to a whisk at this stage (I do!). Keep stirring and adding the milk until all the milk has been added and you have a beautiful, lump free white sauce. The sauce should be thick enough to cover the back of a spoon.

No lumps here - if you squint!!!!!!
No lumps here – if you squint!!!!!!

Remove the pan from the heat and add the Ricotta and all the other cheese (except the mozzarella), which if you are a patient person you certainly may grate. I almost never bother to grate, I just chop the cheese into smallish (1/2″) cubes and the sauce turns out fine.

The Ricotta gets dumped in and then add the hard cheeses.
The Ricotta gets dumped in and then add the hard cheeses.

Stir vigorously. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. The Ricotta cheese will give the Four Cheese Sauce a slightly grainy texture – DON’T WORRY – that’s normal! If you’ve grated the cheeses they will melt into the sauce easily. With the cubed cheese the sauce will almost never become completely smooth – but that’s ok as it will when it’s baked in the oven later! Also the addition of freshly ground nutmeg not only elevates the flavour above and beyond, but please, if you can, grate your own nutmeg. I know I was lazy with the cheese but, freshly grated nutmeg is a million times better than pre-ground nutmeg, trust me.

Assembly :

You will need an oven proof rectangular dish.  Mine is  12″ x 8″ x 3.5″(deep) – measurements were taken from the top.  But you can always use an oval dish and break the lasagne sheets to fit the curves – I have made many lasagne dishes this way, or alternatively split between 2 small dishes. As long as the dish is ovenproof, this really is an adaptable recipe!!!

I always butter my lasagne dish, it makes the cooked lasagne much easier to dish up!
I always butter my lasagne dish, it makes the cooked lasagne much easier to dish up!

I’ve found, after making more than a gazillion – slight over exaggeration – lasagnes, that buttering the dish before hand not only helps when serving the cooked lasagne, but also, it doesn’t require 3 days soaking to get the stuck bits off of the dish!! It’s the little things you know???

These are dried lasagne sheets. Any brand will do!
These are dried lasagne sheets. Any brand will do!

I REALLY WASN’T JOKING, when I said that you don’t have to precook the lasagne sheets. I’ve used lots of different makes, some with ruffled edges, green spinach lasagne sheets, egg vs plain AND this works with ALL TYPES – I guess you could even use fresh lasagne sheets, you would need to cook the Chicken lasagne sauce for longer so that it was thicker – otherwise I can’t see it being an issue. If you try it please let me know how you get on?

Once you have buttered/oiled your dish place a layer of HOT Chicken lasagne sauce (check the seasoning and adjust if necessary) into the bottom of the dish, so that it is completely covered.

The first layer is down, time to start building!!!
The first layer is down, time to start building!!!

Next place enough lasagne sheets to cover the bottom layer – I got luck and this dish takes 4 exactly. I like the layers to meet or very slightly overlap.

If your lasagne sheets don't fit exactly, just snap bits off to adjust them.
If your lasagne sheets don’t fit exactly, just snap bits off to adjust them.

Repeat the sauce/lasagne sheet layering twice more finishing with a sheet layer.

All the bits and pieces of the lasagne sheets will be covered by the Four Cheese Sauce.
All the bits and pieces of the lasagne sheets will be covered by the Four Cheese Sauce.

Now pour the cooled cheese sauce all over the top of the lasagne sheets. I gently tap the dish to ensure any trapped air bubble rise to the surface.

Ooh this is going to be sooooo good - look at that yummy cheese sauce layer!
Ooh this is going to be sooooo good – look at that yummy cheese sauce layer!

This baby is still not finished!  Drain and slice the mozzarella.

The final gooey, stringy, adornment for this fab lasagne dish!
The final gooey, stringy, adornment for this fab lasagne dish!

And now arrange the mozzarella slice on top of the cheese sauce.

The Four Cheese Sauce tops off this lasagne perfectly!!
The Four Cheese Sauce tops off this lasagne perfectly!!

The Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne should be left, ideally for 4 hours, to allow the dried lasagne slices time to absorb moisture from both sauces. This dish can also be made 1-2 days in advance, wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge.

When ready to bake preheat the oven to 180C (165C fan oven). Place the lasagne dish onto a slightly larger baking tray; this dish can bubble up and over – it’s much easier to clean a baking sheet rather than scrub out the bottom of your oven!!!!!

Cook the lasagne for 1 1/2 hours until piping hot all the way through and gorgeously, golden brown.

Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne - delish!
Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne – delish!

Remove from the oven 10-15 minutes before serving. This allows the lasagne to cool slightly and hold it’s shape when being served.

This Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne is delicious on it’s own, served with a salad or garlic bread. It can be frozen at the pre-bake stage or in individual portions, wrapped tightly in foil and popped into the freezer. Or why not double the quantities and make an extra meal for the freezer?

If you try this recipe please let me know how you get on. Do you have alternative lasagne combinations that are scrumptious? If you do please share them.

But most of all if you know a new mum, or someone who has been ill for a while, or just a very busy family that you would like to bless, then this is THE perfect, portable, all in one meal for sharing!

As ever, remember food always tastes better when it’s shared. Happy Feasting.

Sammie x

 

 

 

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