The ultimate Sunday Supper: meaty mushroom lasagna perfectly pairs with an earthy Grenache or Pinot Noir.
My husband is something of a lasagna connoisseur, ordering it just about every time it’s on the menu. It’s because of his affection for the labor intensive dish that I don’t make it very often out of principle. You see, his mother’s version of lasagna is what he considers to be his all-time favorite, and no other lasagna comes close to it… until I unveiled this meatless mushroom lasagna.
In my family, lasagna has always been a special occasion type of meal because it’s often so time consuming. This meaty mushroom version is no exception. It’s not a snap your fingers and it’s done type of recipe, which is why I opted to make it most recently for a casual Sunday Supper at my father-in-law’s house with my husband and his brother. At first I was somewhat apprehensive about walking into the house with a lasagna that wasn’t what they were used to, but because they’re so different (hers had Italian sausage in it), I thought, what the heck. If they want a home cooked meal, they’ll eat it and keep their criticism to themselves.
THEY LOVED IT. Every bite of it, in fact. The three of them actually fought for the leftovers, which I would say either means it’s been so long since they’ve all sat down together for a home cooked meal that wasn’t a holiday, or it’s just that good. I’m going with the latter of the two.
With three different types of mushrooms (portobello, white button, and dried porcini) and lots of delicious fontina cheese, it would be hard not to fall in love with this lasagna. I especially like it for an extremely filling, but meatless dinner that feeds a crowd that is perfect for special occasions like holidays or even birthday celebrations, which will become a tradition to look forward to as more candles are added to the cake.
While this vegetarian mushroom lasagna feels like it takes an entire day to make, the effort is worth it. Inspired by Ina Garten’s portobello mushroom lasagna, I made a few tweaks and additions to make it my own. Rather than use white wine to make the mushroom béchamel sauce, I added dry vermouth. Why dry vermouth you might ask? Because while recently in New York, I had the most amazing mushroom pasta I’d ever had in my life. I kindly asked our server to find out what was actually in the sauce, when the chef himself came out and smiled before simply saying dry vermouth. It instantly clicked for me. Try it next time a recipe calls for dry white wine and you’ll instantly smell the difference as the sauce cooks.
This vegetarian mushroom lasagna can be assembled up to two days in advanced and carefully stored in the refrigerator. You won’t be relinquishing any of the flavors; simply allow for more cooking time.
2 pounds portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, halved and sliced 1/4” thick
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 red onions, chopped
8 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and roughly chopped
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked, rinsed and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry vermouth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup water
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
8 ounces Italian fontina cheese, shredded
3 ounces burrata, sliced
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Lasagna noodles, preferably no cook
Preheat oven to 425º and position an oven rack in the middle.
In a large bowl, combine the portobello mushrooms with 2 tablespoons of the oil, pinch of salt and pepper and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast mushrooms until wilted, about 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.
In a large skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Once shimmering, add onions with salt and pepper, stirring periodically until the onions are soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with portobello mushrooms.
In the same skillet, heat the last of the oil and sauté the chopped white mushrooms and porcini, cooking until browned and no moisture remains, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and a pinch of pepper, reducing heat and continue to cook until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the vermouth and cook until no liquid remains, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and cook until melted. Stir in the flour, followed by the water, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Add the milk and nutmeg, stirring periodically and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the basil and a tablespoon of parsley.
Pour 2 inches of boiling water into a 13 by 9 inch baking dish, adding the noodles one at a time, soaking until pliable, about 6 minutes, separating noodles to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from baking dish, and place noodles in a single layer on a clean surface. Dry and spray the dish.
In a bowl, combine the fontina and parmesan. Spread a cup of mushroom sauce over the bottom of the dish, followed by the noodles, then cover with some of the mushroom and onion mixture and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat the layers, ending with the sauce and cheese, spacing the burrata out.
Cover the dish with foil that has been sprayed, and bake until the edges are just beginning to bubble, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and rotate the baking dish, increasing the oven temperature to 450º and baking until the cheese on top is golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving. If desired serve with extra grated parmesan, some minced garlic and fresh lemon zest.