Recipe - tomato and olive lasagne

Lasagne’s a great crowd pleaser; layer up ragu with lasagne and béchamel sauce and everyone’s happy. For something less obvious (but lovely), give this a go. The pungent sauce packs a delicious punch.




  • 6–10 lasagne sheets (dried/chilled/homemade)
  • 75–100g freshly grated parmesan
  • 110g mozzarella, diced
  • a few crispy garlic breadcrumbs (optional)


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a knob of butter
  • 3 pinches of chilli flakes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • a good pinch of dried oregano
  • 150g pitted black olives
  • 3 tsp capers, drained
  • 6–8 anchovies (optional)
  • fresh basil (optional)
  • salt and pepper

  • 25g butter
  • 25g flour
  • 600ml milk
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • a good squeeze of lemon juice
  • 50g strong cheddar
  • 25g parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • Tip

    Salted anchovies from a tin or jar can be used directly. For a milder taste, soak them in milk for 30 minutes, then drain.


    For the tomato sauce:

  • Put a medium pan on to a low heat and add the oil and butter.
  • Add the chilli and garlic and cook for 2 minutes before adding the tomatoes, sugar and oregano.
  • Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  • Add the olives, capers, anchovies and basil, if using, and season to taste.
  • For the béchamel sauce:

  • Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan.
  • Add the flour.
  • Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon over a low heat for 2 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat.
  • Slowly pour the milk into the paste, bit by bit, with a balloon whisk or spoon until absolutely smooth.
  • Return it to the heat and stir until the mix boils and thickens, adding a little extra milk if it needs it.
  • Lower to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the mustard, lemon juice, cheese and season.
  • If using dried pasta sheets, soak in cold water for 10 minutes.
  • Drain well.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.

    Layer up your lasagne:

  • Grease a shallow ovenproof dish.
  • Smear a little of the béchamel sauce across the base.
  • Cover with a layer of pasta, then a layer of tomato sauce.
  • Add some grated parmesan and diced mozzarella before layering up again in the same way.
  • Finish with a layer of pasta and top with the béchamel sauce, a handful of grated parmesan, a little extra grated mozzarella or garlic breadcrumbs, if using.
  • Cook

    Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncovering for the last 10, until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to settle for 5 minutes before digging in.


    Spoon onto plates or into bowls. Eat with a sharply dressed rocket salad and a bit of bread to mop up the juices.

    Bonus bites

    AUBERGINE AND COURGETTE LASAGNE Make the tomato sauce as above but omit the olives, capers and anchovies. Slice 2 aubergines and 3 courgettes lengthways into strips, brush lightly with oil and griddle both for 5–10 minutes until softening. Add the veg slices to the lasagne when layering up as before.

    MUSHROOM AND TARRAGON LASAGNE Soak a handful of dried porcini in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain and cut into small pieces. Lightly fry 450g of mixed mushrooms (e.g. chestnut/portobello/oyster) with 1 crushed garlic clove, a few tarragon leaves and the porcini in a little butter and oil. Add 2 tbsp double cream, a sprinkling of grated nutmeg, a squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste. Layer béchamel, lasagne, mushrooms, parmesan, béchamel etc. and bake as above.


    This recipe taken with permission from:
    From Virgin to Veteran
    Sam Stern
    Published by Quadrille
    RRP £20
    Photography by Chris Terry