Growing up in a very Italian family, I had eaten more than an entire town’s worth of lasagna before I was old enough to drive. My grandma made it often for Sunday dinners, and usually made multiple versions, catering to various tastes. Some of us didn’t like meat sauce (obviously, this was not me), some didn’t like chunks of onion in marinara sauce, some didn’t like anything green. My grandma wanted nothing more than to please everyone and was a more gracious woman than I could ever hope to be. While we had numerous types of lasagna (that were always delicious!), there were four constants that never changed: red sauce, mozzarella cheese, ricotta, and no vegetables. It wasn’t until much later than I realized lasagna could be made from so many different ingredients, ricotta didn’t need to be included, and the sauce could be white! This was a revelation to me, and although I have been bookmarking different types of lasagnas for some time, it wasn’t until earlier this week when pondering what to cook for dinner that my Chief Culinary Consultant mentioned a vegetable lasagna that he had at a wedding some years ago. I immediately remembered a recipe for mushroom lasagna that I saw in a magazine while on vacation in Florida, and I made it happen the next day. I’m so happy that I did – it’s absolutely fabulous and has opened my taste buds to a new world of lasagna!
While the lasagna preparation is fairly time-consuming, it is absolutely worth every single second that you’ll spend in the kitchen. There are three different types of mushrooms used in the recipe (portabello, porcini and white button), the combination of which adds a tremendous depth of flavor. Throw in a rich bechamel sauce infused with reserved mushroom liquid, Fontina and Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, and you have an absolutely spectacular meal. It’s perfect for serving to company or for something a little extra-special any night of the week.
Even though my grandma served up the traditional version of lasagna, I think she would have been head over heels in love with this one!
One year ago: Beer and Brown Sugar Kielbasa and Sauerkraut
Two years ago: Pumpkin Pie Bars
Three years ago: Black Bean Mushroom Burgers
Four years ago: Apple Hand Pies
Five years ago: Sweet Dinner Rolls
2 pounds portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, caps halved and sliced crosswise ¼-inch thick
¼ cup olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1 cup water
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
2 pounds red onions, chopped fine
8 ounces white mushrooms, finely minced
4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
½ cup dry vermouth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3½ cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil, divided
¼ cup minced fresh parsley, divided
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1½ ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (¾ cup)
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the portobello mushrooms with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the mushrooms until shriveled and all liquid released from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting. Transfer mushrooms to a large bowl and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, microwave the water and porcini mushrooms in a covered bowl until steaming, about 1 minute. Let sit until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Drain the mushrooms through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a coffee filter and set over a bowl. Reserve the liquid and coarsely chop the mushrooms.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the onions to the bowl with the roasted mushrooms.
4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the minced white mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and all moisture has evaporated, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chopped porcini mushrooms, 3 of the minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper; reduce heat to medium; and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the vermouth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Stir in the butter and allow to melt. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly stir in reserved porcini mushroom liquid, scraping up any browned bits. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, then stir in the nutmeg and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook until the sauce has thickened and measures about 4 cups, 10 to 15 minutes. Off the heat, stir in ¼ cup of the basil and 2 tablespoons of the parsley.
6. Pour 2 inches of boiling water into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Slip the lasagna noodles into the water, one at a time, and soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating noodles with the tip of a sharp knife to prevent sticking. Remove the noodles from the water and place in a single layer on clean dish towels; discard the water. Dry the dish and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
7. Toss together the shredded Fontina and grated Parmesan cheeses in a small bowl. Spread 1 cup of the mushroom sauce evenly over the bottom of the prepared dish. Arrange 3 noodles in a single layer on top of the sauce. Spread ¾ cup of the sauce evenly over the noodles, then sprinkle with 2 cups of the mushroom-onion mixture and ¾ cup of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layering of noodles, sauce, mushroom-onion mixture, and cheese 2 more times. For the final layer, arrange the remaining 3 noodles on top and cover completely with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
8. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and bake until the edges are just bubbling, about 20 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through baking. While the lasagna is baking, combine the remaining 1 clove minced garlic, remaining 2 tablespoons basil, and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley in a small bowl.
9. Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees F, and continue to bake until the cheese on top becomes spotty brown, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Sprinkle the lasagna with the garlic-herb mixture and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.