This was one of my more experimental meals for #fillthefreezerday, and we haven’t yet eaten it so I can’t honestly report back. However, I did taste all the ingredients during prep and it fit a lot of what I was looking for: rich, not meat-led, warm, and a good use of an ingredient I got on sale (crimini mushrooms), AND I didn’t create it.
This one is cribbed from Smitten Kitchen, which is one of my favourite cooking sites, and she adapted it from Ina Garten. My adaptation is the use of those oven ready noodles, though in hindsight it actually would have been easier to layer this one in the round tubs I froze it in if the noodles were floppy. I also like that this one introduced me to making my own bechamel, which for some reason has seemed mysterious and complicated, but actually isn’t at all. It’s basically thickened garlicky milk. I do urge you to use whole milk for this one, otherwise it will not thicken nearly the way it should and I think the “win” in this recipe will be it’s thick, rich sauce. I plan to serve this with a lovely simple green salad with a vinegar-y dressing to cut the thick and rich sauce of the pasta.
Deb’s (from Smitten Kitchen) complaint is that this uses a lot of pots and equipment and I totally agree. I used two skillets, a little sauce pan, and had I cooked the noodles, would have used a big pot too. She recommends that if you do cook up your noodles, use that pot to cook the mushrooms (which means you’d only use one skillet).
Mushroom Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce
- Lasagna Noodles – I used a whole box of the oven ready kind and it made two meals worth. If you’re going to boil your noodles first, salt a giant pot of water, add a glug of oil, and bring to a boil. Smitten Kitchen says to use 3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles, so you can add by weight rather than number of boxes.
- Garlic, minced, I used two cloves (Smitten Kitchen/Ina Garten recommended one only)
- 4 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, divided into quarter cups
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour – I used whole wheat as it is what we had
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- about a half teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg. (Both Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen list one teaspoon but Deb at Smitten Kitchen notes she used less as it seems a lot. I totally agree.)
- 1 1/2 pounds cremini or portobello mushrooms – I used closer to two pounds and sliced them a bit thicker than normal to retain some of their heft – about 1/4-1/3″ wide
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
- Glug of oil and blob of butter as required
- Note: if you’re me, you will also add about 200 grams of ricotta to the bechamel sauce because you have it leftover from making the cannelloni.
- Prep your noodles if you’re making the floppy kind and set aside.
- Put the milk and minced garlic in a nice thick bottomed pot and bring up to a simmer slowly. Set it aside (I just left mine on the stove and turned it off.). You can also just warm this in a microwave if you have it. The idea is that you’re warming it so that when you add it in the next step it is not likely to curdle because it’s not going from ice cold to super hot.
- In a large skillet, add 1/2 cup of the butter and melt over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour into it and whisk it up. Add a bit of the hot milk liquid and whisk till smooth, and continue adding small amounts and whisking until it is all blended. Add salt and pepper and the nutmeg, and whisk frequently, on medium heat, for about 5 minutes until it thickens up. Watch that it doesn’t scald – you might need to turn it down a bit depending upon your pot and your stove. If you’re adding ricotta, add it here.
- In another skillet on medium heat, add a glug of oil and a blob of butter and let melt. Add the mushrooms and let them sautÃ© a bit so that they release their yummy juices. Stir, being careful to not let them get too hot – you aren’t trying to make them crispy or black – you want them to retain their flavour and texture. Cook for about 10 minutes, perhaps less.
- Assemble the lasagna! Start with a blob of sauce, then a layer of mushrooms and a layer of noodles and some parmesan. Repeat the layers till you run out of stuff (I made three on my dishes) and end on noodles. Top with a bit more parmesan.
I froze mine here, but Deb recommended cooking first, allowing to cool, and then freezing. When reheating using my method, defrost first, and then cook at 375 for about 35-40 minutes and take the lid off for another 5-10 minutes. You can probably also cook from frozen but adjust the time.