My mother is under the impression I don’t eat and that food is not abundant in LA. Days before I was due to arrive here in Italy, she kept on calling, asking what I would want for dinner.
After 10 hours in the very last row of an ancient and cramped KLM flight with only a nasty Sandra Bullock movie for entertainment (when was the last time she actually made a movie worth renting if not paying full fare for??) and 2 more hours from Amsterdam to Bologna, food was actually the last thing on my mind.I hate the grubbiness that long plane rides leave on your hair and clothes and all I want is a shower and a bed.
I have to confess I was a vegetarian for 15 years of my life, much to my mother’s chagrin, whose cooking repertory doesn’t include that many vegetarian dishes. She is from Bologna, for god’s sake, the city who gave bolognaise sauce, tortellini and mortadella to the world – what was I thinking?? So, for the interminable Christmas lunches, she devised a mushroom lasagna that she would cook alongside the beef one and even the most converted carnivores couldn’t help asking for a slice.
If you are from Bologna or you have a mother like mine or if you have mastered the art of making pasta by hand, by all means, go ahead. Nothing beats homemade pasta – but for conveniency sake, the following recipe calls for boxed pasta which you should cook according to package instructions. Do not tell my mother I have actually used the pasta that you can bake dry: I don’t favor it, but in a pinch it will do.
Make a lot, bake it and cut it into squares. It freezes beautifully for those impromptu dinner guests.
ANNAROSA’S MUSHROOM LASAGNA
1 package lasagna noodles
1# (500 g) mixed mushrooms
8 oz (150 g) butter, divided
4 oz (100 g) flour
4 C (1 liter) milk + a bit more for the mushrooms
salt and pepper
nutmeg as needed
12 oz (200 g) Parmesan cheese, grated
- Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms. Melt half the butter in a sautee pan and add the mushrooms, a few tablespoons of milk, salt and pepper and cook on medium heat until the mushrooms are completely wilted and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Taste and add salt if needed. Set aside.
- Make the bechamel sauce by melting the remaining butter in a sauce pan. Add the flour all at once and mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Start adding the milk slowly, whisking. When all the milk has been added, bring the mixture to a boil, always whisking, until it thickens slightly. Add salt and nutmeg to taste.
- Fold the mushrooms into the bechamel sauce, together with most of the parmesan.
- Cook the lasagna according to package instructions and start layering them in a buttered oven proof pan. Spread some of the bechamel/mushroom mixture and dot with some butter. Repeat until you have about 5 layers.
- End with pasta on top. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan and dot with butter. At this point, the dish can be frozen.
- Bake at 350 until the top is golden. Serve immediately.