Lasagna is the most famous and savory of all baked Italian pasta dishes. It's a classic. Whether it's bolognese, eggplant, spinach or wild mushroom lasagna, that first mouthful will inevitably bring back memories of your mom's lasagna and family dinners.
Like any traditional recipe, one of the first ingredients on the list is time. It takes a few hours to make but its rewards are many. The aromas fill the house as it bakes, the rich flavours of pasta, sauce and cheese are immensely satisfying, and a large pan of it will feed many.
I had the most amazing lasagna bolognese at the Brentwood Seagrille & Pub a few weeks ago- which reminded me just how long its been since I made this dish at home. Too long. So after browsing through all my cookbooks and favorite websites I settled on a combination of two recipes- Martha Stewart's wild mushroom and spinach lasagna with Deborah Madison's mushroom lasagna.
Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna (serves 6)
2 bunches of spinach
1 pound of mixed mushrooms (button, portobello, shiitake)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of butter
1 splash of sherry or Madeira wine
1/2 cup basil, torn
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 box of oven ready lasagna noodles
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 28 ounce can tomatoes, pureed
pinch of crushed chili peppers
salt and pepper to taste
2 1/2 cups milk
3 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife, then peeled
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cream or half-and-half
salt and pepper
To make the tomato sauce, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and saute for about 10 minutes until golden and beginning to caramelize. Add one minced garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds being careful not to burn.
Add one tablespoon and tomato paste and cook for another 30 seconds, then add the can of pureed tomatoes, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Simmer and stir occasionally, for 20 minutes or longer until the flavours develop and sauce thickens, adjusting the seasoning to taste. Set aside.
Mushroom filling. While the tomato sauce is simmering, slice mushrooms. In a large fry pan, melt one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil. Saute mushrooms until they begin to colour around the edges and soften, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add a splash of sherry and cook the mushrooms until the sherry has almost evaporated. Put the mushrooms in a bowl and set aside.
Garlic Bechamel. Heat milk with the smashed garlic in a saucepan. When it come to a boil, cover the pan, turn off the heat, and set aside to steep for 10 minutes. Melt the butter in another saucepan over medium heat, stir in the flour, and cook for 2 minutes. Pour the milk all at once through a strainer and stir until the sauce thickens. Cook over a very low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce is still a little lumpy, strainer again.
Spinach. Take a large pot, fill it half full with water and bring to a boil. Fill it with two cleaned bunches of spinach and simmer for just a few minutes to soften and wilt the spinach. Drain, cool, chop the spinach and set aside.
Boil the lasagna noodles for about 7 minutes until softened and mostly cooked.
Putting the lasagna together. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread half to one cup tomato sauce over the bottom of 9-by-13-inch baking pan, until the bottom is thinly covered in sauce.
Place one layer of lasagna sheets in pan, trimming to fit; spread one third cup spinach mixture, one third mushroom mixture, third of the bechamel sauce, and two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese on top of lasagna sheets. Repeat these layers three times times.
For the fourth layer and last layer, place a layer of lasagna sheets on top; spread half to one cup tomato sauce over lasagna sheets. Sprinkle with remaining grated Parmesan cheese. Cover with tin foil and bake lasagna until top is golden brown, about 40 minutes to 1 hour. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.
MORE ITALIAN RECIPES-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Bite-sized slices of eggplant, roasted and marinated in good quality olive oil, lemon juice, red chili, garlic and herbs.
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Panna cotta in Italian means "cooked cream" and comes from the Northern region of Piedmont in Italy. The version uses buttermilk in place of cream which adds a nice tangy flavour to the custard.