I love mushrooms with a hobbit-like intensity. One of the first things on my "when I win the lottery which will totally obviously happen even though I never play it" list is to eat a truffle. I could probably give up meat if I could always have a delicious portobello (portabella? whatever) cap instead. So when I saw this recipe for Super Creamy Mushroom Lasagna on Divine Cuisine I was instantly intrigued. I also love "white" versions of Italian dishes (yummmm white pizza) so that convinced me I had to give it a whirl.
The first time I made it was tasty, but I decided to make a few changes. There are a few ingredients which, when I see them in a recipe, I usually double the amount. These include but are not limited to: garlic, vanilla, cinnamon and its warm spice friends, cheese, and sauces and marinades because I always find I don't have enough. Some of these policies served me well when making the lasagna, and some did not. I went overboard on the creamy cheeses and the result was a bit bland and didn't hold together well, and Mr. Hippy Elf Chick was demanding "less cream more protein!" and I had to agree. So the following recipe is my omnivorous adaptation.
For the filling:
about 1/2 lb portobello mushrooms, sliced crosswise about ¼-inch thick
about 1 lb of mix of small mushrooms, I used budget-friendly white button mushrooms, sliced
about 1 lb uncooked sweet Italian chicken sausage
one medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped (you could use 2 or a large onion if you like it oniony)
extra virgin olive oil
at least 3 tbsp garlic paste or finely chopped fresh garlic
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
dry Italian herbs to taste
a few leaves fresh sage
For Béchamel sauce:
6 tbsp butter
4 tbsp all purpose flour
4 cups milk
salt to taste
a pinch of nutmeg
For the layers:
lasagna noodles - 12
shredded Fontina (don't tell my employers I'm a traitor, but Trader Joe's Fontina is the best Fontina in the world. Or, you know, at least the best in New Jersey. I don't know if what other stores are selling is not real Fontina or if what Trader Joe's is selling isn't real Fontina, but if it's wrong I don't want to be right.)
fresh shaved or shredded Parmesan
This is one of those recipes that's going to get all four burners going and all your pots and pans dirty in one go, but it's worth it! Read ahead before you start and you can decide which items to multitask depending on your stove arrangement and the number of helping hands you have in the kitchen.
Start off by preheating your oven to 425 F. Drizzle a little oil in a deep frying pan and, when it's nice and hot, add your sausage and brown on all sides. Once it's browned, remove it to a cutting board, and slice into discs. Return the sliced sausage to the pan and toss it around for a couple minutes, until fully cooked through and every piece has some nice pan-browned flavor. Remove from pan and set aside.
Next, add a little more oil to the pan if needed, and add your garlic, cooking over medium heat for about two minutes and stirring periodically. Next add the chopped onions and mushrooms, and cook until onions are clear and mushrooms reduced. Drain the liquid from the pan, season to taste with salt, pepper and Italian herbs, then stir in the whole fresh sage leaves.
Now, over medium-low heat, stir in the cream cheese and ricotta until melted. Don't be tempted to add more cheese than it calls for here! Your filling will end up too runny. Don't worry, there will be lots more cheese later. Once the cheese is melted, turn off the heat and cover your pan so the filling doesn't dry out while you're working on the other components.
Now you should simultaneously get two pans going for béchamel- one with your melted butter and flour, and one with the milk. Whisk the butter and flour mixture as it cooks over medium heat, until it reaches kind of a light blonde brown-ness. By then your milk should be hot enough that it's almost but not quite at a boil. Add the milk to the butter and flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly as you go to incorporate it. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent the bottom from burning and the top from forming a skin. Then turn off the heat and season with salt to taste and a pinch of nutmeg. Don't overdo it on the nutmeg! I'll usually tell you to go nuts (ha), but you really want it to be a subtle flavor since the sauce is so mild to start. Et voilà, béchamel!
|Yours shouldn't look quite this dark - bad yellow lighting.|
Now (or, hopefully, earlier while you were doing something else,) cook your lasagna noodles according to the instructions on the box, salting your water well and adding a bit of oil to keep the noodles from sticking. Once they're drained and given a minute to dry, you can start assembling your lasagna! In a 7 x 11 x 2 glass or ceramic baking dish, scoop out a ladle-full of bechamel and spread around the bottom of the dish to prevent sticking. Next lay on a layer of noodles, then a layer of the mushroom and sausage filling (pull your whole sage leaves out as you go, they've done their job and you don't want to bite into a huge leaf in your lasagna,) and grate away to your heart's content with all your cheeses. Repeat with another layer each of noodles, sauce, filling and cheese. Finish off with a final layer of noodles, sauce and cheese, and sprinkle some Italian seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil on top.
Pop into your preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until nice and browned on top.
Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving. And then enjoy!