I make a mean meat lasagna, but my Father-in-Law isn’t eating meat and I wanted to treat him to something vegetarian and special. For me, mushrooms are an awesome substitute for meat. I believe the key to any great lasagna is the use of béchamel sauce, so the game plan was to make a mushroom béchamel and then finish the lasagna with red sauce to make sure the edges of the noodles have enough moisture to soften. The results were PERFECT – I said it!!!! Here’s how it’s done:
SHOPPING LIST: 2 boxes OVEN READY lasagna noodles, 1 lb. mushrooms, ricotta cheese, tomato sauce, shaved parmesan cheese, chopped garlic, flour, unsalted butter, milk, salt, pepper, mustard powder, onion powder, paprika
The first thing you want to do is cook your mushrooms. I got two large containers of sliced baby Bellas and gave them a rough chop. In my saucepan, I heated 2 tB. of olive oil and added 1 tB. of chopped garlic. Usually I do my mushrooms in batches, since mushrooms omit a ton of juices while cooking, but if you do it one batch and just cook it over high heat for long enough eventually all the juices will evaporate and your mushrooms WILL get crispy. Season your mushrooms with salt, pepper and onion powder and continue cooking – again – until the chopped mushrooms are browned and crisped and your pan is bone dry. Set your mushrooms aside.
Now for your béchamel. This is one of the first things you learn in culinary school and it’s actually quite easy and versatile (and the KEY for a killer Mac and Cheese)! In a large pot, add 1/2 cup of unsalted butter and heat over LOW heat – you DO NOT want your butter to brown. When the butter is melted, add 1/2 cup of flour, increase to medium-high heat and WHISK continuously until your flour and butter creates a roux. Cook for about 3 minutes and then add 4 cups of MILK. KEEP WHISKING. (In school they taught us to HEAT our milk first, if you heat your milk first your béchamel will thicken quicker, but it’s another step and another pot so I just use cold milk). Eventually your milk will come to a simmer, reduce to medium heat AND KEEP WHISKING. You will notice that your milk mixture will being to THICKEN. That’s what your looking for. To know when you’re done, dip the back of your spoon in the béchamel and the spoon should be COVERED in the thick, white sauce. Remove from the heat and season with 1 tB. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. mustard power, 1 tsp. paprika. You can also add a pinch of nutmeg if you have on hand. Add 3/4 cup of shredded mozzarella – and BOOM – your béchamel technically is now a Mornay sauce. Here’s some kitchen mathematics for you: BECHAMEL + CHEESE = MORNAY. TASTE your sauce and adjust your seasonings accordingly – sometimes it is hard to season this creamy mixture and you’ll need to double up on your salt, pepper, etc. Add the mushroom mixture into your mornay and stir well. Now it’s time to build your lasagna!
I mean, whoever invented OVEN READY lasagna noodles – THANK YOU! Don’t worry, the noodles WILL cook and soften in the oven, especially since we will cover this whole thing in a layer of tomato sauce. Take your casserole dish and give 1/2 a ladle of your mushroom sauce and use a spatula to just coat the bottom of the dish. This is an important step so the bottom noodles don’t stick to your pan. Now layer 3 of your lasagna sheets in a horizontal fashion so the bottom of your pan is covered and then begin the process of layering. One full label of mushroom béchamel, spread thin with a spatula, 4-6 dollops of ricotta cheese placed haphazardly around and then another layer of noodles and REPEAT. I think my lasagna was 7 layers. You are done when you run out of béchamel sauce. Hopefully, it looks something like this:
Once you have your top layer of noodles, cover the entire surface with tomato sauce, making sure that the CORNERS of your noodles are covered as well — if you DON’T cover the corners they won’t soften properly. Sprinkle the entire top with a generous coating of SHAVED parmesan (I’m like, really, into shaved parmesan right now) and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.
LASAGNA always has to COOL. So cover it with tin foil, and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. If you don’t let your lasagna settle, it won’t slice beautiful and then you won’t impress your friends and family with your beautiful, perfect lasagna so if you refuse to wait these extra minutes just do me a favor and don’t tell them you got the recipe from me 🙂 otherwise, I’m happy to take all the credit – just ask my husband! Ha!