Cheese, pasta, sauce.
Who doesn't like it? Then again, who's had truly great lasagna? *
I'm not really a lasagna person. That's not to say I don't like lasagna - after all, it can't be bad for the reasons mentioned above: cheese, pasta, sauce. However, I often find it's too heavy and that it lacks something to make it truly special. Most lasagnas I've tasted all taste the same. Lasagnas also make me think of something you'd package up and take to neighbors. So-and-so had a baby? Break out the jarred Ragu and make them a lasagna.
Then I tried Smitten Kitchen's recipe for mushroom lasagna and OH - this spin on lasagna has totally changed my opinion. There's no red sauce or meat in here, and surprisingly, very little cheese. (It does make up for that by using 4 cups of whole milk and a stick of butter!) I find that most fancy pasta recipes I see require large quantities cheese like gruyere or fontina which are both expensive and not always available in my admittedly pitiful local grocery store. This recipe uses plain old grated parmesan, and being the parmesan junkie that I am, I always have several containers at the ready in my fridge. The cream sauce and mushroom combination is fantastic and rich, without being too heavy. Serve this lasagna with a salad and some wine and you will be very very happy.
My other gripe with lasagna? It's a pain in the ass to make. The noodles sticking together...argh! This recipe does take some time and dirty up a lot of pots, but as described on Smitten Kitchen, it is "completely and totally worth it."
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (who slightly adapted it from Ina Garten)
- Olive oil
- 16 dried lasagna noodles
- 1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 stick butter plus an extra 3 tablespoons for cooking the mushrooms
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms (I used a pound of baby bellas/cremini and a half pound of white mushrooms)
- 1 cup grated parmesan
Bring the milk and garlic to a simmer in a saucepan and set aside. In a second saucepan, melt 1 stick butter, then add the flour and cook over low heat for one minute, whisking constantly. Pour in the hot milk, a little at a time at first, stirring until combined. Add the rest of the hot milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes or until thick, and set aside.
Trim the mushroom stems and slice mushrooms 1/4-inch thick (or buy pre-sliced mushrooms and save time!). Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 3 tablespoons butter in a large frying/saute pan. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms release their juices and are tender - about 6 minutes. (If your fry pan is not big enough you can cook the mushrooms in batches as specified in the original recipe - but I found it worked fine to cook them all at once.)
Note: At this point, you have cooked the noodles, made the sauce, and prepared the mushrooms and you are ready to assemble the lasagna. The recipe called for an 8x12 pan, which I had and used, however, I had to trim about an inch off the ends of all the lasagna noodles, so next time I will probably make this in a 9x13 pan.
Spread some of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish (see note above). Arrange 4 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, overlapping slightly. Add more sauce on top of the noodles (about 1/4 of what remains), 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Repeat two more times then top with a final layer of noodles, your remaining sauce and the last 1/4 cup of parmesan.
Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly.
Allow to sit for a few minutes (it will be HOT) and enjoy! (Or perhaps wrap it up and take it to your friends who just had a baby!)
You may have noticed an extreme lack of posting on Vicious Dishes lately and I'm the only one without a good excuse. Sarah and Abby welcomed baby girls into their families earlier this year, and Sara is due to give birth any day now!
Sara, if we didn't live 1,100 miles apart, I'd be stopping by this week with this lasagna...(and a bottle of wine to celebrate)!
* I have had several truly great lasagnas. My mom makes a white lasagna with sausage that is to die for. I had an unbelievable lasagna at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina a few years ago. (If you ever have a chance to get to Asheville it is truly a delicious town!) And the third truly great lasagna? This very recipe!