Monday, December 19, 2011

Mushroom Lasagna

Earthy mushrooms sauteed in brandy and then layered between ribbons of pasta, a garlicky bechamel sauce, and three cheeses. Oh, my! 

I scaled this recipe to fit  a 10 x 7 dish, so it's perfect for a few people. As a first course to, say, a roast-beef dinner, it would be gorgeous. 

Lasagnas require many steps, so have everything measured, sliced and diced, and ready to go. I really wanted a smoked mozzarella but my market didn't have it so I settled for fresh. You may forego the mozzarella and simply add Gruyere if you wish. The Parm. keeps the recipe light but "cheesy." And don't skip the brandy. I think it makes the dish. For extra flavor, I add chicken stock to the bechamel.

I buy a pre-packaged variety of mushrooms at my market that include crimini, shitake and oyster and then I add baby bellas. Always soak your "no-cook" pasta in hot water before using. I love Barilla sheets which are flat. I don't get frilly-edged pasta at all.

  • 12 ounces mixed mushrooms, sliced and chopped
  • 3 shallots, chopped (a good 1/2 cup), divided
  • 2-4 tablespoons brandy
  • 1.5 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 cup fresh-grated Parmasan/Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere
  • Mozzarella, preferably smoked, 1/2 of a fresh round or shredded
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 no-cook lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)*
  • Olive oil and butter for frying mushrooms

Shallots make all the difference!

Add some olive oil and butter to a large pan. When melted, add 1/4 cup of the chopped shallots and cook until translucent. Add sliced and chopped mushrooms and cook over medium heat until they release juices, about 10 minutes. Add brandy and continue to cook until liquid is re-absorbed into mushrooms and the mixture becomes "syrupy." Add a bit of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a pan with hot tap water and submerge your no-cook pasta sheets as you prepare the sauce. (A bread pan works great.)

In a medium saucepan, add the 1/4 cup butter. When melted, add the remaining 1/4 cup shallots and cook just until translucent and soft. Add the pressed garlic and just stir to combine for a bit. Now add the 1/4 cup flour. The mixture will thicken immediately. Lower heat a bit and continuously stir the paste to cook the flour just until it gets a bit "nutty." Be careful not to burn the garlic or shallots. Begin adding the milk a little at a time, working away any lumps and keeping the mixture moving at all times. Whisk in the chicken stock and continue stirring. Add a dozen grates or so of fresh nutmeg. Stir. Remove from heat and blend in 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese. Taste for seasonings and re-adjust as needed. Set aside.

If your sauce is too thick, don't be afraid to add more liquid.
It should easily coat the back of a spoon when done.

Remove pasta sheets to drain. Lightly spritz/butter a 10 x 7 x 2 casserole dish. You will make four layers of pasta. Cut sheets to fit the dish. Preheat oven to 350 F. degrees.

  1. Smear a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place one layer of pasta without overlapping. Cover with some sauce. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the mushrooms and then sprinkle with 1/3 of grated Parm.
  2. Place down layer 2 of pasta. Spread with some sauce and then another third of mushrooms and 1/3 third of Parm.
  3. Place down layer 3 of pasta, spread with sauce and remaining mushrooms, but this time top with your Mozzarella.
  4. Place down layer four of pasta. Spread with rest of sauce and top with remaining 1/3 grated Parm. (I added a bit more).
Go easy on the cheese. Keep things light.

Cover lasagna with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove foil and raise temperature to 500. Bake just until the top begins to brown a bit and lasagna is bubbly. Keep an eye on it. Allow to rest for a good 20-30 minutes before slicing.

By the time mine was done, I had lost the natural light:

*Barilla no-cook flat lasagna sheets measure 3.5 x 6.5 inches. It's important to always soak no-cook sheets in water first. I used half of a box, 8 sheets, about 4.5 ounces