This is essentially my first ever lasagne recipe. That’s why I call it the Carlton recipe: I was living in Carlton, Melbourne, and I did a bunch of lasagnes for a friend’s dinner party – and that’s pretty much what started 1800 Lasagne, my on-call lasagne business.

When I make lasagne, I focus equally on each element as I’m going through the building, cooking and preparation process. Each element is special, and you need to treat it as such. It’s a lot of seasoning, it’s putting cheese in all the right places and it’s making your ragu specifically for lasagne, not just taking a bolognese sauce and whacking it between some sheets of pasta.

The difference between an average lasagne, a good lasagne and a great lasagne is really going the extra mile. That’s why sometimes when you order lasagne at a restaurant it doesn’t meet your expectations – because they’ve cut corners. And you can’t really cut corners with a great lasagne.

Making a lasagne is a labour of love, so put on some music and pour yourself a glass of wine. Be the lasagne.

Lasagne, by Joey Kellock, owner of 1800 Lasagne, Melbourne
Serves: 12
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 5½ hours

Ingredients
400g firm mozzarella, shredded
250g Grana Padano, grated
400g fresh pasta sheets

Napoli sauce
120ml extra-virgin olive oil
½ brown onion, cut through the root
6 large cloves garlic, smashed using the side of a knife
4–6 basil leaves
Sea salt
3 x 400g cans San Marzano tomatoes
Brown sugar to taste (optional)

Ragu
80ml (⅓ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
250g pork mince
1kg veal mince
500g pork and fennel sausages, casings removed
125g flat pancetta finely diced
125g mild cacciatore salami, casing removed, finely diced
1 large brown onion, finely diced
4 large celery stalks, peeled and finely diced
1 large carrot finely diced
6 cloves garlic, smashed using the side of a knife
1 tbsp Sicilian dried oregano
500ml (2 cups) white wine
250ml (1 cup) red wine
2 fresh bay leaves
750ml (3 cups) stock I use veal, but you can use a mixture of chicken and beef
Salt flakes and ground white pepper

Bechamel
1.5L full-cream milk
150g unsalted butter
150g (1 cup) plain flour
70g Grana Padano, grated
Salt flakes and ground white pepper

Method
To make the napoli sauce, place a saucepan over medium–low heat and add the olive oil and onion, cut side down. Gently bring the oil up to heat – we’re trying to infuse as much onion flavour into the oil as possible. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the onion starts to sizzle and has a bit of colour, then add the garlic, basil and 1 tsp of salt, reduce the heat to low and gently cook for 6–7 minutes, until the garlic just starts to colour.

Add the San Marzano tomatoes (use an old knife to chop them up while they’re still in their cans or break them up in the saucepan) and stir through. Swill out the cans with 250ml (1 cup) of water and add to the pan. Bring up to a gentle simmer, then cook, stirring frequently, over low heat for 30 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove and discard the onion, then taste and season with salt and, depending on your canned tomatoes, a little brown sugar.

Meanwhile, to make the ragu, pour the oil into a large saucepan and set over medium–high heat. Working in three separate batches, brown the pork mince, veal mince and sausage for 8–10 minutes each batch, breaking up the mince with the back of a wooden spoon. Set the browned mince and sausage aside, then add the pancetta and cacciatore to the pan and cook for 6–7 minutes, until they’ve released their delicious juices and the fat has rendered. Using a slotted spoon, set aside with the mince and sausage.

Add the onion, celery, carrot, smashed garlic and oregano to the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 6–8 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to caramelise. Add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan, then cook for 8–10 minutes, until reduced.

Return all the meat to the pan, along with the bay leaves, stock and napoli sauce. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook with the lid ajar and stirring frequently, for 2.5 hours or until reduced and thick. Season with salt and white pepper to taste, then remove from the heat and set aside.

To make the bechamel, pour the milk into a saucepan and set over low heat to gently warm through. Melt the butter in a separate large saucepan over medium– low heat and add the flour. Stirring constantly (I use a heatproof spatula so the flour doesn’t catch), cook out the flour for about 5 minutes, until it looks sexy.

Add the warm milk, 250ml (1 cup) at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition, until all the milk is incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Switch back to your spatula, increase the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the bechamel is slightly thickened and the taste of raw flour has gone. The whole process should take around 30 minutes.

Whisk in the cheese and season with salt and white pepper (don’t be too heavy-handed with the seasoning, as we want the bechamel to be delicate and clean-tasting). Set aside, covered to keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

To build the lasagne, bring a large saucepan of heavily salted water to the boil.

Grab a large baking dish (mine measures 33cm x 26cm x 8cm) and set up your ingredients in a production line ready to go.

Spoon a thin layer of ragu over the base of the dish, then add a splatter of bechamel and a sprinkling of mozzarella and Grana Padano. Next, blanch the first round of pasta sheets in the salted boiling water (depending on their size you’ll need 2–3 sheets per layer) for 1–2 minutes. Carefully remove the pasta sheets using a spider strainer or two spatulas, then place on a chopping board and trim the corners so they’ll fit snugly in your baking dish. Place the pasta in the baking dish, overlapping slightly, then repeat with the remaining ingredients to create three more layers, finishing with a heavy layer of bechamel and grated cheese (make sure you have enough cheese left for this and distribute it evenly, as this will form the crisp topping).

Once your lasagne is assembled, place the baking dish on a large baking tray and cook for 45 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown on top with crispy edges. Rest for a minimum of 15 minutes, then slice and enjoy.

This is an extract from the Broadsheet cookbook Home Made, which features 80 diverse recipes for home cooking, sourced from Melbourne's best cooks, chefs and restaurants. Published by Plum, the book is available for $49.95 at shop.broadsheet.com.au