Today’s post is about inner beauty. I tried to find a creative way to photograph this Wild Mushroom Lasagna With Smoked Mozzarella and was not entirely successful in my attempt. Yet it doesn’t matter so much how it looks on the outside, for it’s what’s on the inside that counts. This may not win the Most Beautiful Photograph Award on Kitchen Fiddler or anywhere else, but believe me when I tell you it was incredibly comforting and truly satisfying to eat.
I will admit it: I’m a bit of a lasagna slut. I love all kinds and have no problem going from one to another. I’ve even made three different pans of it this week. Are there support groups for that?
My favorite lasagna is a classic, the way they’d make it in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. How could you not love something that involves homemade spinach noodles layered with a béchamel sauce, freshly grated Parmesan, and a kick-ass Bolognese sauce that has simmered and intensified for hours? But I have no problem with a more Americanized version with a simple tomato-based sauce and lots of gooey cheese, similar to this excellent sausage-and-basil one I made with my lasagna-loving Little Chef last week. And I finally just made this wild mushroom lasagna, a recipe I first saw in the New York Times Magazine a few months ago and have been daydreaming about ever since.
And wow, was it ever daydream-worthy. A small mountain of shiitakes and crimini mushrooms cooked down to a very concentrated mixture, augmented by roasted radicchio strips that added a contrasting slightly-bitter note. A béchamel—a simple white sauce made with butter, flour and milk and flavored with additional shallots and nutmeg—served as the binding agent for the mushrooms and the pasta. You already know that there's smoked mozzarella in there, but did I mention the Gruyère and Fontina cheeses that also came to this lasagna party? Oh yes please.
While it is a definitely a luxury to make your lasagna with tender sheets of homemade pasta, most of us don’t have time for that. I happily admit that I have become a big fan of these Barilla no-boil lasagna sheets, for the noodles have plenty of time to soften in the oven while baking with the sauce. When your kitchen is as small as mine, it is a luxury of a different variety to not need an additional pot for boiling the pasta.
I invited several friends over to join me for this wild mushroom lasagna the other night, but in my excitement to serve it up and finally taste it, I totally forgot to grab my camera when the finished dish came out of the oven. It wasn’t until the next day when there were only a few small wedges left that I realized I hadn’t taken any photos of this earthy creation. I know it would have photographed better as a full dish, golden and bubbling hot. But regardless of how it looked, it tasted even better the second day, something almost unimaginable considering how much we all loved it straight from the oven.
Let’s hear it for inner beauty, all the way down to the very last bite.
One Year Ago: Chocolate Malt Ice Cream
Two Years Ago: Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Three Years Ago: Coconut Cupcakes
WILD MUSHROOM LASAGNA
Adapted a little from a recipe by Sam Sifton, who in turn adapted it from Monica Byrne of Home/Made, published in the New York Times Magazine on 11/24/11
For the filling:
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 large shallots, peeled and minced, divided
1 – ½ pounds wild mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced (shiitake, cremini, etc.)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup dry white wine
1 large head of radicchio, cut in half, cored and cut into ¼-inch strips
salt and pepper, to taste
For the béchamel:
4 Tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese, divided
1 cup grated Fontina cheese, divided
2 Tablespoons truffle oil (optional)
12 sheets no-boil lasagna noodles
1 large ball smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add half the shallots and cook till translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the sliced mushrooms and thyme leaves, cooking till they become golden and soft, about 12 minutes. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any shallot bits that have stuck to the pan. Cook until the wine has reduced down to a syrupy liquid, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms into a large bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and scatter the radicchio strips over it. Drizzle with the remaining ¼ cup olive oil, tossing to coat evenly, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring once midway, until the strips are lightly browned on the edges. Add to the mushroom mixture and reserve.
Make the béchamel by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it is melted and foaming, add the remaining shallots and cook till they begin to soften. When the shallots are translucent, add the garlic and cook till it begins to soften. Sprinkle the flour over the shallot mixture, stirring to combine well. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the flour is cooked and the mixture is a nutty golden brown. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, and cook until the sauce thickens. Add the nutmeg, ¼ cup of the grated Gruyère and ¼ cup of the grated Fontina. Stir to combine until the cheese melts in, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve 1 cup of the béchamel and pour the rest over the mushroom mixture. Stir to combine and add the truffle oil (if using).
Assemble the lasagna by spreading the plain béchamel evenly over the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan. Layer 4 lasagna sheets over the sauce, then spread with a third of the mushroom mixture and top with some of the grated Gruyère and Fontina. Make another layer of pasta, mushrooms and most of the smoked mozzarella. Repeat with a third layer of pasta, the rest of the mushrooms and scatter all the remaining cheeses on top.
Cover with a buttered sheet of aluminum foil and bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown on top. Makes 6 to 8 rich servings.