This lasagna has been on the table just a few times in the past decade. Each time we’re blown away by its deliciousness and I wonder how it’s possible to have neglected such a memorable dish for months/years at a time. Bake it whenever you’re ready, the fragrance is amazing, and then the moment of truth. With that first savory-mushroomy-cheesy bite you don’t mind having spent a chunk of time in the kitchen – a couple of hours, give or take. Sensuous, delicious slow food, so worth it.
I served this to a group of friends last night, eight of us who meet for dinner five or six times a year. Collectively I suppose we’ve known each other for centuries – seriously though, friendships among this group range from fifteen to thirty years in duration and the love just keeps growing. However. Meat is usually part of these dinners, sometimes a big part. At first I thought that going meatless was a gutsy move, but then again not really. We’ve all come around to various habits of more sustainable living and eating less meat is a part of that.
So this Wild Mushroom Lasagna took center stage along with a salad of greens, fennel, grapefruit and avocado, a loaf of homemade no-knead bread, wine. Apps and dessert provided by these dear friends.
As I said, this is worth the effort. Can be made hours ahead or the day before and then baked when you’re ready. Dinner time itself is pretty labor free.
Wild Mushroom Lasagna Recipe
I discovered this in Gourmet magazine in March of 1999. This is an exact copy of that recipe. I add less salt and a little more milk to the sauce, and I usually get mixed up in the layering of ingredients. Oh well. It works out.
Ingredients for the mushroom filling: 3 cups water/ 2 oz dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup)/ 2 # crimini mushrooms/ 2 large zucchini (about 1 #)/ 1 large onion/ 3 garlic cloves/ 5 T unsalted butter/ 6 T Sherry/ 2 t chopped fresh thyme/ 2 1/2 t salt/ 1/4 t black pepper.
Ingredients for the sauce: 1 stick unsalted butter/ 1/2 C all-purpose flour/ 5 C whole milk/ 4 1/2 oz grated Parmesan cheese (1 1/2 C)/ 2 t Dijon mustard/ 1 1/2 t salt.
Plus: 18, 7 x 3 1/2-inch sheets of dry no-boil lasagna pasta (about 1 #). I used 8 pieces of fresh spinach lasagna pasta from Pasta & Co. Use what you like as long as it’s enough to create at least three layers/ 2 C freshly grated mozzarella (I put it in the freezer for an hour first.)/ Additional 1/2 C Parmesan for topping.
Directions for the filling: In a small saucepan bring water to a boil and remove pan from the heat. Stir in porcini. Soak porcini 20 minutes. Lift out porcini, squeezing out excess liquid, and reserve soaking liquid. In a sieve rinse porcini to remove any grit and pat dry. Chop porcini and transfer to a large bowl. Simmer reserved soaking liquid until reduced to about 1/3 C. Pour liquid through a sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into bowl with chopped porcini.
Quarter crimini mushrooms and in a food processor pulse in 3 batches until finely chopped. Cut zucchini into 1/4-inch dice. Chop onion and mince garlic. In a 12-inch heavy skillet heat 1 T butter over moderate heat until foam subsides and cook one third of the mushrooms with 2 T Sherry, stirring, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and they begin to brown. Add cooked crimini mushrooms to porcini. Cook remaining mushrooms in two batches in butter along with remaining Sherry in the same manner. Add to porcini mixture. In skillet cook zucchini in 1 T butter until tender and add to porcini mixture. Cook onion in remaining tablespoon butter until tender, stir in garlic and thyme for about a minute and mix it all into the porcini mixture. Filling may be made 1 day ahead, covered and chilled.
Directions for the Sauce: In a 3-quart heavy saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook, whisking, for 3 minutes, then whisk in the milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly. Then simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 more minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 C Parmesan, mustard and salt. Remove pan from heat. Use immediately, or let cool and cover with wax paper, chill and reheat when ready to assemble lasagna. May be made 1 day ahead. Note: I added less salt throughout this recipe.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a 13 x 9-inch (3-quart) baking dish.
Assemble lasagna: Spread 1 1/4 C sauce in the bottom of baking dish and cover with sheets of pasta making sure that they don’t overlap. Spread 1/3 of the filling over pasta sheets and top with three more pasta sheets, gently pressing down the layers to remove air pockets. Top pasta sheets with one third of the grated mozzarella. Continue layering in the same manner with sauce, pasta sheets, filling and mozzarella, ending with mozzarella. Dish will be filled to the rim. Spread remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with the 1/4 C Parmesan. Note: I finished this batch with a layer of filling and a small amount of sauce, then sprinkled it with the Parm.
On a foil-lined large baking sheet, bake the lasagna in the middle of oven until bubbling and golden, about 45 minutes. Note: I cooked it covered with foil for the first 15 minutes and removed the foil for final 30 minutes. Let lasagna stand 20 minutes. It may be made 1 day ahead, covered and chilled. Bring lasagna to room temperature and reheat before serving. Serves 6 – 8.
Apps consumed, Bob’s no-knead bread came out of the oven (see Poppy’s post), Lasagna baked and rested, salad tossed, we sat down together, ate and talked for the next few hours. Chocolate cake and lattes eventually. Recipe requests. Scrumptious evening.