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29 June 2011

Frugal favourites - lasagne, and a not-so-frugal coffee cake

Lasagne is one of those great meals that can be modified to suit a range of tastes and is often a favourite meal from childhood. I make lasagne from scratch, usually with a meat and tomato layer, a spinach layer and cheese sauce. I make the pasta sheets too. The ones I used for this lasagne were the leftovers of the chicken noodle soup noodles I made a week or so ago. I kept the pasta well wrapped in the freezer and defrosted it in the fridge the day before I used it. The same recipe does both meals well and cooks equally well being boiled in the soup and baked in the lasagne. That recipe is here.  This lasagne feeds Hanno and I for three meals, so it's a frugal favourite and it's very tasty.

Lasagne is a good dish for vegetarians. When I was vegetarian, I replaced the meat layer with a homemade baked bean layer - with half the beans crushed and half whole to give a thick and rich sauce. If you add the spinach layer and cheese sauce and make the pasta with wholemeal flour instead of white, you have a complete protein, vegetarian meal.

  1. Brown 700g\1½ lb topside mince\ground beef in a frying pan on medium heat.
  2. Add one chopped onion, one sliced stick of celery and some garlic - as much as you like, and mix it in.
  3. When the onion is starts taking on some colour, add two big spoons of tomato paste, mix it in and cook for three minutes.  Stir it so it doesn't burn.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste, one can of whole tomatoes, one can of water and one teaspoon sugar. Crush the tomatoes and mix together.
  5. Add herbs of your choosing - I added fresh oregano and parsley.
  6. Bring to the boil and let it simmer, with the lid off, for about 30 minutes - until it's well reduced and the sauce is thick.
  1. Pour about 600mls\one pint milk into a saucepan over medium heat. You can use milk power and water.
  2. Add 2 large tablespoons cornflour and whisk in.
  3. Add salt and pepper and a sprinkle of chilli powder or Tabasco.
  4. Add 1½ cups grated chedder cheese.
  5. Mix together and stand there stirring until the cheese has melted. Cheese sauce burns easily, so keep stirring.
  6. When the sauce is thick and smooth, add it to the lasagne.
I'm sure everyone knows how to make up a lasagne in layers. I usually have two layers of meat sauce, two pasta layers, two cheese sauce layers and one spinach layer. But make yours up however it suits you.  

For a gluten-free version of this, don't use the pasta - use a layer of cooked mushrooms or eggplant instead and instead of making a cheese sauce, sprinkle grated cheese on instead.


This is a very easy to make coffee cake but it turns out so well, you could use it as a special dessert or a celebration cake. Naturally, you have to decorate it better than I did, but it would stand any test for a special cake. Probably not the best cake for children or anyone on a diet.

Like my whole orange cake, this is all done in a food processor and is equally easy to make.

75g\2½ oz walnuts
225g\8 oz caster sugar
Add these first two ingredients to the food processor and mix until they're powdery. 

Then add:
225g\8 oz room temperature butter
4 fresh eggs
5 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in two tablespoons boiling water
Mix until everything is light and creamy.

Then add:
225g\8 oz self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
and enough milk, sour cream or yoghurt to make a thick batter. Use whatever you have on hand but the addition of sour cream or yoghurt to any cake gives it something extra special.

When the mixture is nicely combined, add equal amounts to two 20 cm greased and baking paper-lined cake tins and cook on 180C\360F for 20 - 25 minutes - or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Turn out both cakes on a cake rack. If both cakes have a raised dome top, cut the top off one of them.  You'll need the bottom layer to be flat on both top and bottom.

While the cakes are still hot, mix together 2 teaspoons instant coffee and two teaspoons boiling water, and dribble this over the tops of each cake. Then let them sit there to cool down.

350g\12 oz icing sugar
175g\6 oz soft butter
2 ½ teaspoons instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

Beat the icing sugar and butter together until it's creamy, then add the coffee and mix until it's incorporated.

Sandwich the two cake halves together with about one third of the icing and decorate the top and sides with the rest. Decorate with crushed walnuts.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and they make it into your favourites recipes file.


  1. I make my own pasta, but have been pondering ways to keep it so that I don't have to actually make it each time. Save it in the freezer, you say? Does this only work for a couple days or does it stay good frozen for longer if it is wrapped appropriately? Do you ever dry your homemade pasta?

  2. I don't dry the sheets but I do dry smaller cut pasta and fettucini. This pasta will last well in the freezer for a month.

  3. Thanks Rhonda,

    These are my favourite posts when you talk about cooking from scratch and sharing your recipes and pictures with us. It helps those that are starting out or the older ones like me, who are learning now to be frugal (never to late as you say) as I no longer have the land or yard to grow vegetables I am really focussing on the shopping/ food/ cooking areas to help feed us better on our new budget, which is tight.

    Thank you!

    I love snap shots of your cooking!

  4. That makes me want to have cake for breakfast this morning!

  5. My son's girlfriend has adopted a gluten-free diet and so now I'm discovering rice flour for white/cheese sauces and of course cornflour (called Maizena in South Africa) has always been around. There is now gluten-free dried pasta available in certain markets alongside the wheat-based products eg Wellness Warehouse and Woolworths. So, your lovely lasagna could be made with either the store-bought or homemade gluten-free pasta sheets and no one would probably know the difference. Also, I substitute grated carrots for the sugar to cut the acidity of the tomato sauce.

  6. The cake and the lasagna both look very delicious !!
    I really want to try them. Thank you for the recipes !!

  7. These look yummy! Though, the last time I made pasta from scratch, it was with this terrible pasta making machine. It made such a mess we gave up on it. Looking at how you made the noodles... I think I could do that!

    That cake looks perfect for back-to-school mornings, though I think we'll have to try it before then. Thanks so much for sharing these!

  8. They both look delicious.I was thinking as I was reading it that it won't be for me as I don't eat meat but there you are ,you thought of that! Thanks for you recipes Rhonda.

  9. Rhonda try adding a layer of sliced pumpkin- use it as the very bottom layer (ie the first layer) and it soaks up any excess fluid and makes the lasagne hold its shape beautifully when sliced. The other way to vege it up is to add red lentils, just a cup, to the napolitana (tomato) sauce.

  10. Wow, you are a good cook! Both look so good. love,andrea

  11. Guess what we will be having for morning tea today! I've been searching for a good coffee cake recipe for ages but so far most have not been moist or flavoursome enough for me - maybe this will be the one that will make it into my book of handwritten 'best ever' recipes. These are the recipes I want to pass on to my daughters and one day they will no doubt ask 'Who is Rhonda Jean?' as your name appears next to a few recipes in there!

  12. Thanks for sharing your delicious coffee cake recipe Rhonda..

    I'll be sure give it a try this weekend..

    Jodie :)

  13. I'm going to try your pasta. That's one thing I haven't ever tried to make myself yet, so will have to give it a go.

    That coffee cake looks divine, I'm supposed to be on a diet but I may have to postpone it to squeeze in a couple of slices of this cake, my mouth is watering!!!

  14. Thanks for the recipes. I've made egg pasta for years because it's so easy and goes with everything. Your lasagne looks easy to make too and sounds quite delicious.
    Great ideas in the comments also like the pumpkin base for lasagne, though I might give it a try with sweet potato.
    The coffee cake would make a nice addition to my partner's morning coffee break.

  15. I never thought of making lasagna this way. We have casein and dairy allergies in our house, so my son hasn't been able to enjoy lasagna. I had thought of using crumbled tofu to mix with the veggies I use. I think I'll top that with a garlic white sauce now and maybe attempt my own noodles.

    I too love to read your from scratch recipes. Your nut slice recipe is one of my favorite treats for myself.

    I recently picked up knitting again. I learned in middle school but hadn't knitted in years. I joined a knitting class at our local senior center, and I've enjoyed learning so much. I've been working on wash clothes for the baby and looking forward to making him some clothes. I just wanted you to know how much I too appreciate the honest, encouraging way you approach your blog. You're a true inspiration to me when I need it most!

  16. Popping back to say I made the coffee cake and it turned out perfectly and was just delicious! I used Greek coffee and Greek yoghurt as that is what I had on hand - and I used almonds as I had run out of walnuts. Very moist and a very strong coffee flavour which is exactly what I was looking for - so thank you Rhonda. Time to go and write it in my book of best ever recipes and hide the other half of the cake so there is a piece leftover for my husband when he comes home from work!

  17. I'm so pleased you liked it, Ann. I'm honoured to be in your best ever recipe book.

  18. yum! cant wait to try the coffee cake :)

  19. Mmmmm, both look so delicious! Thank you for the recipes, I will try the pasta but had best steer clear of the coffee cake [waistline decrees!] One slice would not be enough!

  20. Fabulous recipes Rhonda. And your photos show them off really well. Adding a layer of spinach to the lasagne is a good idea to get some vitamins and minerals into veggie-phobes.

  21. Hi Rhonda,

    This looks well lush. Have never made my own pasta before, but am keen to give it a go (not easy with an eight week old baby!). I made your orange cake the other day,as it looked quick and easy. I used 4 small oranges instead of 1 large one and added cinammon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice - I like my fruit cakes spicy! My hubby demolished it. Also made the apple cake as well and taking it back to the Midlands tonight to share with my mom.

    Love from Claire and baby Aengus from England x

  22. We do not have a microwave. What are your recommendations for reheating the leftover lasagne? The coffee cake looks delicious can't wait to try this recipe.

    Thank you,

  23. Glad you like the cakes, Claire.

    Miriam, cut a slice and reheat in a small saucepan, with a covering of aluminium foil. Make sure the heat is on low. OR ... if it's very hot outside, place it on a small dish, cover with the alu-foil and place it in the sun for 30 minutes.

  24. Your coffee cake is soooo beautiful Rhonda. I've managed to save a tiny peice for Shane for tonight but it's been very hard to not finish it off today. Your lasagne recipe looks great too, I'm going to try that. I might even try to make my own pasta too :-) Love and hugs xox

  25. looks delicious Rhonda! I must have a go at homemade lasagne. :)

  26. I have been desperate for coffee cake recently, but there's nowhere here to buy it, and I'm not the best at cakes. Thanks for the recipe, I'll definitely try it!

    I totally agree that lasagne is great for vegetarians. I am vege, and often make pasta with alternating vege sauce and cheese sauce. The vege sauce has whatever vegetables I have on hand, plus beans if I think of it or occasionally tvp. The only problem with it is that I only ever have half the leftovers I expect! :)

    Mel (in Prague)

  27. I love how you give two recipes that use the oven at a similar temp together, very convenient!


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