After years of doing something different every year for Christmas, we finally seem to have stumbled on tradition. This Mushroom Lasagna is partly to blame. The first year I made this was the first year we were all home for Christmas, and at the time my brother was a vegetarian. For our Christmas Eve Dinner I knew that I wanted something that could be made ahead and easily feed the 14 people attending dinner, something that was delicious enough for the occasion but wasn’t super fancy and, of course, met the vegetarian requirement. I knew I would make the Lasagna Bolognese, Simplified and needed something equally delicious without meat. This Mushroom Lasagna met all my requirements, and then some. With a variety of mushrooms, clever techniques to extract flavor and use of fresh herbs and lemon zest to brighten the dish, this Cook’s Illustrated Recipe is a Christmas Eve Tradition I hope to never give up.
10 – 12 servings
In regard to ingredients, Cook’s Illustrated notes that if Fontina is unavailable (I find it in the specialty cheese section of my grocery store), you should substitute whole milk mozzarella. I have only ever used whole milk in this recipe, but CI notes that skim and low-fat milk are acceptable. If I’m making this for a special occasion, though, I prefer to go richer and creamier. But that’s just my preference. In the end, the winning part of the lasagna is the mushroom flavor and you’ll get that either way.
1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms , rinsed well
1 cup water
2 pounds portobello mushroom caps (about 10 medium), cleaned and cut into 2- to 3-inch by 1/4-inch slices
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
8 oz. button mushrooms , cleaned, stems trimmed, and broken into rough pieces
4 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter , plus additional for greasing pan
3 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour 3 1/2 cups milk (see note above)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves plus an additional 2 tablespoons
8 oz. Fontina cheese, rind removed and shredded (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
1. Cover porcinis with water in small microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap, cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife, and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Let stand until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes. Lift mushrooms from liquid with fork and roughly chop (you should have about 3 tablespoons). Strain liquid through fine-mesh strainer lined with paper towel into medium bowl. Set mushrooms and liquid aside.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread portobello mushrooms in even layer on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, tossing to coat mushrooms evenly; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss again. Roast mushrooms until shriveled and all liquid released from mushrooms has evaporated, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Set mushrooms aside to cool.
3. While portobellos roast, process button mushrooms in food processor until uniformly coarsely chopped, about six 1-second pulses, stopping to scrape down bowl as needed. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped button mushrooms, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and all moisture has evaporated, 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to medium and stir in porcini mushrooms, 1 tablespoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
5. Add butter and cook until melted. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Slowly add reserved porcini soaking liquid, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Add milk and nutmeg. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce has thickened and reached consistency of heavy cream, 10 to 15 minutes (you should have about 4 cups). Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons parsley and 1/4 cup basil.
6. Combine fontina and Parmesan in medium bowl. Place noodles in 13 by 9-inch ovensafe baking dish and cover with hot tap water; let soak 5 minutes, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on kitchen towel. Wipe baking dish dry and coat with butter.
7. Using rubber spatula, evenly distribute 1 cup mushroom sauce in bottom of baking dish; position 3 noodles on top of sauce. Spread 3/4 cup sauce evenly over noodles followed by 1/3 Portobellos and 3/4 cup cheese. Repeat layering of noodles, sauce, Portobellos, and cheese two more times. Place 3 remaining noodles on top of last layer of cheese. Spread remaining sauce over noodles and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Lightly spray large sheet of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna. Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes.
8. While lasagna is baking, combine remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, 2 tablespoons basil, and 1 teaspoon garlic with zest in small bowl. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees, remove foil from lasagna, and continue to bake until cheese on top becomes spotty brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove lasagna from oven and immediately sprinkle evenly with herb mixture. Cool 15 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve.
DO AHEAD: The most do ahead I’ve ever done for this lasagna is to assemble it the morning I plan to bake it for dinner. I imagine it could be made at least a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator until baking. There is also the option to make the various parts a day ahead, store in fridge, then assemble them the day of. Please comment if you have thoughts/opinions on this.
Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Online (originally published September 1, 2006)