One of the Ragu products that I received in my lovely hamper that surprised me the most was this duo of lasagne sauces - a red one to add to mince and a white one to create the creamy layers. Now I have to say, I knock up a pretty mean lasagne from scratch but it does take quite a lot of faffing around and creates a lot of washing up so I was pleased to give this short-cut a try to save time after a busy day at work.
I decided to use my usual recipe and add not just minced beef, as suggested on the back of the jar, but also onions, mushrooms, carrots, green pepper and courgettes - might as well get as many of our five-a-day in there as possible because I know the kids will eat it all and come back for more !
Once it had all cooked through, I added the jar of red lasagne sauce (that really is the name on the label !) and stirred it in. So far, it wasn't actually much of a time saver at all because I'd normally do the same thing then add a tin or two of chopped tomatoes. I would, however, usually stand at the hob, tasting and tweaking the recipe, adding oregano and maybe a touch of chilli and a bit more garlic pepper and, hmmm, maybe a little celery salt. You know how it is when you can't stop trying to improve a from-scratch recipe ! When it comes out of a jar, I'm much more likely to trust them and add nothing !
Because I'd added so much extra veg, I thought I might need to add a tin of tomatoes too because there wouldn't be enough sauce to cover everything, but in the end, the jar was quite sufficient. The sauce was lovely and thick, not too runny and ready in an instant. The jar suggests you leave it to simmer for ten minutes but I didn't bother, as it would be in the oven for half an hour waiting for everyone to arrive home anyway.
The real timesaver is the "white sauce". Usually I would knock up a cheese sauce (admittedly, often from a packet because I'm in a rush !) so I wasn't sure how the jar would compare. When I took the lid off, I was dubious because it looks just like mayonnaise ! Nevertheless, I slathered it all over the lasagne sheets, piling up layers of meat sauce, lasagne sheets and white sauce and topping it off with a generous layer of grated cheese. I tasted the white sauce that was left on the spoon and it basically tasted like cream. I had a look at the ingredients list and was slightly perturbed to see that the top two ingredients are water and sunflower oil. The third ingredient on the list is cream but that only makes up 4% - hmmm. It contains 152 calories per 100g which isn't actually as bad as I imagined.
When I took it out of the oven, it looked and smelt just the same as my normal lasagne.
Cutting into it revealed that most of the white sauce had been absorbed by the pasta sheets, giving them a soft, creamy texture. This often happens with the homemade cheese sauce anyway. Everybody said that it was very nice and very nearly as good as my usual homemade from scratch offering. (I have them well trained !).
If you want to save time (and washing up !), it's definitely a cooking shortcut that will appeal to busy mums. I'd like to see this marketed in a kit, containing both sauces and possibly a small packet of lasagne sheets, so that you have everything you need (except for the fresh ingredients) without scouring the supermarket shelves looking for all the separate items.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £1.99 for 475g
for more information : http://www.ragu.co.uk/products
Disclosure : I received a hamper of Ragu and Chicken Tonight products, in order to write honest reviews.
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