Lasagna with many mushrooms. Delicate, in a cheesy sort of way.
And Good! So good!
Before we jump headlong into the frenzy that is going to be Christmas Cookies, let me share this wonderful pan full of mushroomy goodness with you.
Be warned, this recipe has a ton of ingredients and I’m about to swamp your computer with step by step photos. But it is SO WORTH IT!
Besides, lasagna is always a little fussy and labor intensive with all those layers. I cheat and use the oven ready, no boil lasagna. If I were going completely nuts, I’d make homemade lasagna noodles, but since I’m only partially crazed at this point, the ready to use store bought ones work just fine. No boiling and draining required.
Take a deep breath, it’s just prepping four components and then actually really easy to make. After all, it’s just layers of pasta, sauce, and good stuff. Can’t go wrong with that!
Here’s what you need:
Lasagna Noodles, Onion, Garlic, White Button Mushrooms, Baby Bella (Crimini) Mushrooms, Dried Porcini Mushrooms, Rosemary, Fresh Parsley (not pictured), Butter, White Wine, Flour, Milk, Ricotta Cheese, Egg (not pictured), Smoked Gouda Cheese, Mozzarella Cheese, Romano Cheese, Nutmeg, Cayenne Pepper, Salt & Pepper.
Whew! That’s a whole counter full of food.
I think one of the secrets to this recipe is the rich flavor that you get from combining fresh mushrooms with dried porcinis. You can find these in most grocery stores. In my store they are in the produce section hanging just above the regular mushrooms. You’ll only need 1/2 ounce or half a package for this recipe but you’ll be happy to know that you can use the remainder and make these amazing Pork Chops with Porcini Mushrooms.
To rehydrate the dried mushrooms, pour hot (almost boiling) water (about 1/2 cup ) over 1/2 ounce of the dried mushrooms and let them sit and steep like tea while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat the oven t0 350 degrees.
Rinse, brush off, or clean your mushrooms as you see fit and slice them up. I have 1 pound of regular white button mushrooms and 1 pound of crimini or baby bella mushrooms.
Unfortunately for whoever does the dishes, this recipe needs a few pots and pans. The mushrooms and onions really cook better if they cook separately.
Cut one large onion in half and cut it into long slices. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large pan and sauté the onions over medium to medium high heat.
We want the onions to brown slowly and caramelize so be sure that the heat is not too high that they start to stick and burn.
When the onions are starting to get nice and golden (about 7-10 minutes) add a few cloves of chopped garlic to the pan.
Sauté the garlic for a few minutes then add 1/4 cup of dry white wine. Use the wine to help you scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat down to medium low and continue to slowly brown the onions.
Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in another large pan and sauté the fresh mushrooms over medium high heat. You want the mushrooms to get slightly brown on the edges and also release all of their moisture. This takes about 5-10 minutes. If you’re good at multi-tasking, there is no reason why the pans of mushrooms and onions can’t be cooking away at the same time.
Check in on your rehydrating porcini mushrooms. They should feel soft and leathery.
Remove and chop the mushrooms but reserve the liquid.
Strain the reserved mushroom liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Some people strain it through a paper towel but I find that the towel absorbs too much of my precious mushroom liquid. If you’re careful, you can see all the grit as you’re getting to the bottom of the bowl. Just avoid pouring those gritty bits in and you should be fine with a strainer.
Add the strained porcini soaking liquid and the chopped rehydrated porcini mushrooms to the pan of onions.
When the liquid has cooked off of the fresh mushrooms add them to the pan of onions as well. Chop 1-2 Tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves and add them to the pan.
Cook the mushrooms and onions together over low heat so that all of the liquid is absorbed. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
The third component is the sauce. Rather than traditional tomato sauce which would over power the flavor of the mushrooms, we’ll make a simple white sauce or beschamel. In French cooking, beschamel sauce is considered one of the “mother sauces.” It’s a building block for dishes from good old mac and cheese to casseroles to fancy French seafood entrees.
White sauce starts with making a roux. At the request of my friend Cody, we will fully cover everything you ever wanted to know making a roux in a post to come, but for now be assured that it is just a mixture of flour and butter made into a paste.
Grab a medium sauce pan and melt 1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) of butter. Yes, you have now used a whole stick of butter for this recipe. You’re welcome. Traditionally, roux is made with equal parts butter and flour. However, in this case I am using less butter because of all the other butter in the onions and mushrooms.
Stir 1/2 cup of flour into the melted butter until you have a thick, light colored paste. That’s the roux. This should only take a minute tops.
Stir the roux around in the pan for a minute to cook the flour (over medium heat) but not so long that it starts to brown in any way. Add 2 cups of milk to the pan and start whisking away the lumps.
It will look like a gloppy mess at first but should come together very quickly into a paste. I like to alternate using a whisk and a wooden spoon to be sure I’m getting the bottom and all the edges of the pan clean.
Add 2 more cups of milk and whisk again. I like to add the milk half at a time because (A) I’m a messy stirrer, and (B) it helps to get lump free sauce if you aren’t trying to stir an entire pot all at once.
Turn the heat up just a bit so that the sauce comes to a simmer or very gentle bubble. You need to get it to simmer to get the full thickness but you don’t want this to boil or it will scorch and stick. Be sure to stir the entire time you’re cooking your sauce.
There it is! Lovely white, beschamel sauce. Season it with a little nutmeg and cayenne pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon each) and add a little salt to taste.
Recipes will say that your sauce is done when it coats the back of a spoon. All this means is that if you dip your wooden spoon in the sauce and can draw a line through it with your finger without it running back together, your sauce is good to go. If it gets a little too thick, add a bit more milk. If it is still too thin, turn the heat up and cook it a few minutes longer.
Are you still with me? One more component. In a medium bowl, combine 1 (15 oz) container of ricotta cheese, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley.
Stir them all together to combine and season with a bit of salt & pepper.
Believe it or not, we are now ready to assemble the lasagna!
Spray a 9×13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon just a bit (about 1/2 cup) of the white sauce into the bottom of the pan to create a nice base layer then lay 3 pieces of the oven ready noodles on top.
Spread half of the mushroom onion mixture on top of the noodles.
Add another layer of pasta on top of the mushrooms and then spread half of the ricotta mixture over the top of the noodles.
I’m using a mixture of grated mozzarella and grated smoked gouda cheese. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of each on the lasagna to make the next layer.
Add a third layer of pasta, the remaining mushrooms and onions, and a little more of the white sauce (1/2 t0 3/4 cup) as glue. You should have most of your white sauce still in the pan.
Spread the white sauce out on top of the mushrooms then add a final 4th layer of noodles. Spread the remainder of the ricotta mixture over the noodles and top with 1/2 cup each grated mozzarella and smoked gouda cheese.
Then as the final layer of goodness, pour the white sauce all over the top and down into every nook and cranny of the lasagna. The secret to using the oven ready noodles is that they must be entirely covered to cook properly.
As one last bit of cheesy goodness, and to get a nice golden crust on the lasagna, I’ve grated just a bit (maybe 1/2 cup) of good Pecorino Romano cheese over the top.
Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and continue to bake for 20-30 more minutes until bubbling and golden brown.
If, for some reason, your lasagna isn’t getting quite golden enough, you can QUICKLY run it under the broiler. However, watch it the ENITRE time. You only need 1-2 minutes of broiling to get a lovely golden topping. Things can quickly go wrong under the broiler so NEVER, EVER walk away or you’ll incinerate your dinner.
Allow the lasagna to cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before cutting so it holds its shape.
Look at those layers of mushrooms and cheese. Yes, it took 3 pans, chopping, stirring, whisking, and a million steps, but this lasagna is SO worth it.
I served my lasagna on a bed of baby arugula for a bit of crunch and pop of green. The warm lasagna slightly wilts the greens while the peppery arugula helps to off-set the pasta’s cheesy goodness. A simple garnish of some tomatoes and dinner is served!
As we approach the holidays, why not make a mega mushroom lasagna? This easily serves 6-8 people and even though it is vegetarian friendly, it is rich, hearty, and decadent enough for any meat eater to enjoy too.
Here’s the recipe: