Lasagna al Marmite

When I was wooing my fidanzata I made her lasagne al forno, which is a bit presumptious given that I’m the English one and she’s the Italian. But she loved it and it won her heart. That and my natural charm and good looks, of course.

Last night I made her lasagne al forno again. She said it was the best I’ve ever made. I have to admit, it was indeed utterly amazing and better than anything I’ve had in a restaurant in Italy.

The secret? I snuck in a little bit of Marmite. But I haven’t told her.

Ingredients for the ragù

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 white onion
  • 400g minced beef
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 glass milk
  • 1 glass red wine
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsps dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of Marmite
  • Up to 1/2 tube tomato purée

This ragù can be made well in advance. In fact its flavour improves over about 48 hours. If you refrigerate it I recommend re-heating it before making the lasagne in order to loosen it up.


Peel the garlic cloves and put them in the oil whole on a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Finely chop the onion and add to the oil until it is beginning to become translucent. Add the beef and break up the lumps, stirring until brown. Add the glass of milk and turn the heat  up, stirring all the time. When most of the liquid has boiled off, add the glass of wine and repeat until it’s mostly boiled off. Turn the heat back down to medium, stir in the tin of tomatoes, then the bay leaves, oregano and black pepper, and simmer gently for around 20 minutes. When it has reduced slightly, stir in the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and Marmite, making sure to hide the Marmite from any Italians who may be nearby. Surreptitiously return the Marmite to the cupboard. Taste to see if it needs more sweetness (adjust using small amounts of balsamic vinegar) or saltiness (creep to the cupboard and retrieve the Marmite). Remove the garlic cloves and bay leaves. Reduce the heat to low and stir tomato purée until there is no runny liquid visible. Turn the heat off.

Ingredients for the béchamel

  • 75g butter
  • 50g flour
  • 250ml milk
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan


Melt the butter. Meanwhile in another pan warm the milk. Stir the flour into the butter until it’s completely absorbed. Cook for a few minutes on medium until the butter is ‘boiling’ out of the mixture and it has turned a golden colour. Remove from the heat and add about 1/3 of the milk. Stir with a whisk until smooth then return to the heat. The mixture will start to thicken, at which point remove from the heat and add another third of the milk. Repeat until all the milk has been used up. If it’s still too thick, keep repeating with the same amount of milk until it’s the texture of double cream. Turn the heat off and stir in about 10 grinds of pepper and all the parmesan.

Ingredients for the lasagne al Marmite

  • The ragù
  • The béchamel
  • About 40 fresh basil leaves
  • Spinach lasagne sheets
  • 1 ball mozzarella
  • 50g grated parmesan

To construct the lasagne

Lightly oil the bottom of a lasagne pan (though with the proportions above I used a 1 lb bread loaf tin. Double all ingredients to fill a larger pan). Cover completely with lasagne sheets. If you have fresh ones, cut to size with scissors. Spread out one layer of ragù to a depth of about 1cm. Cover with a single layer of basil leaves, then cover that with more lasagne sheets. Pour béchamel over the entire layer of pasta to about 1/2cm deep. Then add another 1cm depth of ragù, another layer of basil leaves, another layer of pasta, then béchamel, then ragù, then basil, and then the final layer of pasta. Note that there should be three layers of ragù by now. Pour the last of the béchamel over the top, then top with slices of mozzarella.

Bake in the oven at 180C for half an hour (if using fresh pasta) or 40 minutes if using dry pasta. Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top and garnish with a few fresh basil leaves, then return to the oven to let the basil leaves crisp and the parmesan brown.

Once it’s out of the oven it’s best to leave it to settle for about 20 minutes. This allows the béchamel to thicken and the pasta to soften even more, which helps when serving. When you cut it make sure you cut all the way through the bottom layer of pasta, as this will keep it together structurally as you put slices on the plate.

Remember, allow your Italian friends to compliment you, but think twice before revealing the presence of the Marmite.

Share Button

One thought on “Lasagna al Marmite”

  1. Giacomo,

    Beth and myself are fans of this particular one. going for a second take tonight!!


    Thanks for the inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *