I find most American versions of vegetable lasagna way too rich and laden with too much cheese – mozzarella, ricotta, Gruyère or combinations of the three make for a cholesterol unfriendly and greasy dish that scarcely resembles the original. My mom’s lasagna is phenomenal because the flavour comes from just mushrooms and Parmesan and its creaminess from bechamel sauce, a slightly less rich alternative to gobs of cheese.
She makes her own pasta which is paper-thin and doesn’t compare to the thick sheets one finds in a box but for me to make pasta by hand I have to be extremely motivated. Last Sunday, I wasn’t.
1 1/2 pound mixed mushrooms
1 oz dried Porcini
5 T Butter + more to dot the lasagna with when assemblying it
4 T Flour
3 C Milk
1 C Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/2 pound lasagna sheets
1/4 ts grated nutmeg
A/N salt and pepper
- Soak the porcini in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and chop. Clean the fresh mushrooms and slice.
- Sautee all the mushrooms in 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil. Add a splash of milk, salt and pepper and cook on medium heat until the mushrooms are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.
- To make the bechamel. Melt the remaining 4 T of butter in a saucepan, sprinkle the flour over it and whisk until well incorporated. Cook for a few minutes until deep yellow and nutty.
Slowly pour the milk in the pan, while whisking continually. This is the boring part – you will have to stand at the stove, whisking, until the bechamel thickens. It’s done when it coats a wooden spoon – you don’t want it too thick as it will harden in the oven. When done, take the pan off the stove, add the nutmeg, salt and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Mix well.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the lasagna and cook according to package instructions. So the sheets won’t stick, when cooked I lift them one by one out of the pan and place them on a board covered with a linen or cotton dishrag to absorb the water.
- Butter a 9”x13” pan. Spread some bechamel on the bottom of the pan and then add the mushrooms to the remaining bechamel and mix.
- Cover the bottom of the pan with the pasta sheets, cutting them to fit so they won’t overlap. Spread some of the bechamel/mushroom mixture, sprinkle some Parmesan and dot with some butter. Repeat until you have run out of layers. Finish with a healthy sprinkle of Parmesan and butter.
- Bake at 350 F, covered in foil for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15. Serve right out of the oven.