Lately, I've been a little obsessed with lasagna. I pretty much make a batch every time I entertain. Why? Because it's delish. And because it's a dish you can make ahead, then pop it in the oven when it's time to eat dinner. That means I get to socialize with my guests instead of slaving away at the stove while everyone else partays.
My go-to lasagna recipe is from Cooking Dinner: Simple Italian Recipes Everyone Can Make. It features a simple meat ragu and bechemel sauce version that's oh so yummy. But my sister-in-law is visiting from England this week and I needed a vegetarian version. This Roasted Portobello Lasagna is what I came up with (it's basically a mash-up of a few lasagna recipes).
Roasting the portobello mushrooms brings out their rich, smoky flavor. Coupled with creamy bechemel and sharp parmesan-reggiano, this lasagna is a truly amazing dish (if I don't say so myself).
This is the lasagna before it's been baked. Even uncooked it's beautiful!
1 1/2 lbs portobello mushrooms
4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1/8 ground nutmeg
12 lasagna noodles
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup freshly grated parmesan-reggiano cheese
For the bechemel sauce:
Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it's just about to boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter over low heat in a larger saucepan. When melted, remove from heat and whisk in the flour until smooth. Continue whisking, and add the heated milk about one cup at a time.
Return the mixture to low heat. Add salt and nutmeg and stir until the sauce reaches a boil. Cook for three more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.
For the roasted portobellos:
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
Remove stems and slice the caps about 1/4 inch thick. Drizzle olive oil over a cookie sheet and lay the slices closely together on the pan. Drizzle more olive oil over the slices and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Roast portobellos for about ten minutes, until they are sizzling. Turn them over, then roast for an additional ten minutes. They will shrink considerably and become a lovely rich brown color. Set aside until ready to use.
For the lasagna noodles:
Fill a large pot with water, salt it, and bring to boil. Add the noodles and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle.
Assemble the lasagna:
Ladle a spoonful of bechemel into the bottom of an 8x12x2 inch pan. Add a layer of noodles. Add another layer of bechemel, 1/3 of the mushrooms, top with a sprinkling of mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan-reggiano. Repeat 2 more times. Add a final layer of noodles, sauce, and parmesan-reggiano.
Bake the lasagna in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbling. Allow to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.
Substitutions: Take a page from my friend Ben's recipe book and use sharp white cheddar cheese instead of the mozzarella and parmesan-reggiano.
Finally, here's where I get all food-snob on your ass. If you haven't tried lasagna (meat or otherwise) with bechemel instead of ricotta or <shudder> cottage cheese, do yourself a favor and try it. You'll never look at the world the same after that.