Since I knew I was going to have a large crowd (41) for last Sundays JazzVox concert, I decided to fix a big ole Italian meal. Complete with appetizers – Caponata Alla Siciliana, Marinated Goat Cheese, and Crab and Artichoke Dip. (I didn’t get a picture of the Crab and Artichoke Dip, so I am going to have to make it again very soon before I can post the recipe. Oh the sacrifices I must make for this blog!) Followed by Lasagna Bolognese, vegetarian Roasted Mushroom Lasagna with Béchamel Sauce (this recipe), romaine salad with Italian Salad Dressing (soon to be published), and Herb and Garlic Focaccia (again – soon to be published). And for dessert, Italian Dream Cake and Glazed Italian Lemon Cookies. Look for the cookie recipe in the near future also.
And for those of you who are looking at the menu and saying to yourself “is this woman crazy making all that food”, I offer a simple response. Yes she is! I mean – yes I am!
But if you are going to lavish food on 41 hungry people, 10 of whom are teenagers, you simply need to fix a large quantity with multiple choices. And what better dish or dishes to feed a large crowd than lasagna? Now granted, lasagna is not a quick dish to prepare. But none of the steps taken individually are difficult to construct. It’s just that there are a stinkin’ lot of steps! (I sound like I’m trying to persuade you not to make this lasagna, but that’s not the case. But, I’m also not going to lead you down a primrose path! (For those of you who are too young to know the meaning of “being led down a primrose path”, it means “being led to a life of ease and pleasure”.) Or as Lemony Snicket* would define it “being in and out of the kitchen in less than 30 minutes”. Simply not going to happen!)
But if I do say so myself, it is time well spent. The lasagna is creamy, herby, and full of mushroom flavor. And it’s vegetarian. So next time you need or want a veggie main dish, give this lasagna a try. It’s just really, really good.
*For a wonderful read that contains more vocabulary words and definitions (some real, some just for the circumstance) than your average grade school English primer, check out one of Lemony Snicket’s books in the charming children’s series “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. If all of the 3 R’s could be taught in such a delightful way, there would be a lot more children achieving than left behind. And if Lemony Snicket were telling you about this recipe, he would undoubtedly tell you not to make this dish. That you should try a recipe that was simpler and quicker to prepare. That you should fix a dish that you knew you would like. That you would be upset with the final product. But then, he tries with all his might to dissuade youngsters from reading his books too if all they like are happy endings. (His books never have a happy ending!) But unlike his books, this recipe does have a happy ending. It’s called a happy mouth. Enjoy!
- ½ onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 lbs. mixed mushrooms (cremini, button, Portobello, shiitake) sliced between ¼-inch and ½-inch thick
- 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 8 T. unsalted butter, divided
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 T. finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- ½ c. flour
- 6 c. milk (whole milk is best)
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. white pepper or black pepper to taste (white pepper actually has a sharper flavor than black)
- 1 lb. lasagna noodles* (I like Culinary Circle Authentic Bronze-cut Lasagna noodles)
- 1 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1½ c. grated mozzarella cheese
- 1½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 T. chopped Italian parsley
Place the onion and mushrooms on a large low sided baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Cut 2 tablespoons of the butter into small pieces and place on top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss the vegetables together until they are evenly coated with the oil, butter chunks, and seasonings.
Place in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and browned. (Turn once during the baking process to ensure even browning.) Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the fresh rosemary. Stir. Set aside.
Meanwhile to prepare your béchamel sauce, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute of until the garlic gives off its aroma. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes or until the roux starts to turn a delicate golden brown. Slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a slow boil, stirring the entire time. Boil for one minute as the sauce continues to thicken. Remove from heat and whisk in the salt and pepper. Set aside. Reserve 1 cup of the béchamel sauce. (This will be spread on the lasagna half way through the baking process.)
Before cooking the noodles, have all the other ingredients prepped and ready to go. Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until al dente (firm to the bite). Drain the noodles and run under cold water. Drain again.
To assemble: Spread ½ cup béchamel sauce in a buttered 10×16-inch baking pan. Arrange 1/3rd of the lasagna noodles over the sauce. Spread half of the roasted vegetables over the noodles, followed by half of each kind of cheese, then half of the béchamel sauce. Repeat, beginning with another third of the noodles, remaining roasted veggies, and remaining half of each cheese, except the Parmesan. Save out about a quarter cup. Layer on the remaining noodles. Carefully cover the pan with foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil; spread the reserved 1 cup béchamel over the top and sprinkle with the reserved quarter cup of Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the lasagna is bubbly and lightly browned on top. Remove from oven, lightly cover with the foil you used earlier, and allow the lasagna to sit about 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the parsley just before cutting into portion sized pieces.
*Hint: when deciding how many noodles to cook, spread the bottom of your pan with a single layer of uncooked noodles. Triple that number and you have just the right amount. (Seems too easy, doesn’t it?)