Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mushroom Lasagna

Nothing says comfort food like a huge pan of lasagna. It screams "home cooked meal", and I don't know of anyone who doesn't like it. Personally, I've never met a lasagna I didn't like. This is a rich white sauce lasagna and it's extremely versatile. You can literally follow this same exact recipe and change it up to your heart's content. Instead of using mushrooms, use chopped spinach, or any variety of vegetables. You could even make a seafood lasagna by adding shrimp, crab, and/or scallops. If I were doing the seafood, I'd add a little Old Bay seasoning to the cream sauce. That's exactly what I did last year when I was in Ptown with Nick and Mitch. It was so good, we even sent some up to the upstairs neighbors. They loved it! I know you will too!

Kosher salt
Good olive oil
3/4 - 1 lb. dry lasagna noodles
4 cups whole milk
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Set aside off the heat.
Slice the mushrooms (caps and stems) about 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms and half the garlic, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. If they become too dry, add a little more oil. Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and set all the mushrooms aside.
To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 9x13x2 baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, a handful of mozzarella and 1/3 cup grated Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and cheeses.
Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.

For added depth of flavor, use several diferent kinds of mushrooms!
The amounts in the recipe are just guidelines. As I always say, It's the Cass Quaile School of Cooking. "If you like a lot of mushrooms, add a lot of mushrooms." In this case, I used a buttload of mushrooms, just because it's the main flavor of the dish. I don't even know how many pounds of mushrooms I used, I just kept throwing more into the pan until I had enough to cover all three layers. (same goes for the onions and garlic too!) Oh, also, I didn't add any extra salt, since the Parmesan cheese adds a bit of saltiness.
Save time by making it ahead! You don't even have to boil the noodles. Just assemble it as you normally would but use the dry noodles right out of the box. Then keep it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. The sauce will soften the noodles!

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