I love this lasagna. It’s unlike any other I’ve cooked in that it has not an ounce of tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, or meat. It has really three elements: pasta, béchamel, and mushrooms. That’s it. And despite the béchamel, it somehow manages to be simultaneously light yet rich. Even my carnivore husband loved it and proclaimed he didn’t miss the meat. And that’s saying something in our house, because he never says that.
I found the recipe on one of my favorite sources, Smitten Kitchen, which was slightly adapted from Ina Garten. I adapted a bit more to bump up the flavor of the mushrooms and to reduce the number of pots/pans used from 4 or 5 down to 1. Changes italicized below. I served with a spinach-avocado-nectarine salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
Serves 6 to 8 (more as a first course)
- Olive oil
- 3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles
- 3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided. Plus 1 more tablespoon for dabbing on top before baking.
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 10-15 sprigs of fresh thyme, whole
- 1 small bunch of chives, finely minced
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Bring a large, wide (if you use a wide one, you can save a dish later and sauté your mushrooms in the bottom of it) of water to boil with salt and a splash of oil, that will help keep your noodles from sticking together as they drain. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Make béchamel: Bring the milk and 1 clove minced garlic to simmer in a 4-cup measuring cup in your microwave, and set it aside. Melt 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) butter in the same large saucepan in which you cooked the pasta. If your name is Deb, you will probably brown this butter, too. Add the flour and cook for one minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon. Pour in the hot garlic-infused milk, a little at a time at first and stirring until combined. Once you’ve added half of it, you can add the second half all at once, along with 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring or whisking frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until thick. Pour the thickened béchamel back into the same 4-cup measuring cup and set aside. Rinse the pan clean, dry it, and re-use it in the next step.
Prepare mushrooms: Trim the ends of the cremini stems. Slice mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium in the bottom of the large, wide pot you used to cook the noodles earlier, or in a large sauté pan. Add half the fresh thyme stems and cook for 30 seconds. Add half the mushrooms with a couple pinches of salt and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are tender and release some of their juices, tossing to make sure they cook evenly. Add one minced garlic clove and cook for another minute. Move cooked mushrooms to cutting board used earlier and repeat with additional oil and butter, and remaining mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. When all mushrooms are cooked, remove stems by hand and discard.
Assemble lasagna: Spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8 x 12 or 9 x 13 baking dish. (Ina recommends the former, I only had the latter; if you’d like to freeze or give this dish as a gift, remember to use a foil pan). Arrange a layer of noodles on top*, then more sauce (about 1/4 of what remains), 1/3 of the mushrooms and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Repeat two more times then top with a final layer of noodles, your remaining sauce and last 1/4 cup of parmesan. Dab remaining tablespoon of butter on top.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. To freeze for future use, allow it to cool completely and wrap two to three times in plastic wrap before freezing.