It’s not that store-bought lasagna isn’t good… it’s quite adequate, in fact, but it just doesn’t hold a candle to a carefully assembled homemade lasagna, with its multi-layered flavours and tender (but not mushy) pasta and gooey melted cheese. The secret ingredient, you might say, is love.
(Okay, fine… love and cream. And lots of cheese. But mostly, the difference comes from a liberal application of love.)
My version was made with paper-thin sheets of homemade pasta, though this does extend the already considerable prep time by another 30 minutes or so. It’s worth it, but not utterly necessary… trust me, no one will complain if you opt for store-bought pasta instead. Chances are, they’ll be too busy ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the fact that you cared enough to make a proper homemade lasagna.
Creamy Mushroom Lasagna
3/4 lb dried lasagna noodles
1 1/2 cups shredded mozarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 lb portobello mushrooms, stemmed and finely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 450g container ricotta cheese
1 tsp herbes de provence
Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water as per package instructions. Drain and set aside.
To prepare the mushroom filling, saute shallots in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft. Add mushrooms and thyme; cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked through and lightly browned. Add white wine and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, around 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in walnuts and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the bechamel sauce; in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Immediately whisk in milk, and cook until thickened, stirring frequently, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in heavy cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Lastly, prepare the ricotta filling by stirring together the ricotta, eggs and herbes de provence until smooth. Set aside.
To assemble, spoon out a small amount of bechamel into bottom of a 8×12″ pan. Arrange a layer of noodles over top, followed by half of the ricotta filling and another layer of noodles. Spread evenly with the mushroom filling and top with half of the bechamel sauce, followed by a third layer of noodles, the remainder of the ricotta filling, and last (but not least) a layer of noodles. Pour the remaining sauce overtop, and sprinkle evenly with the grated mozarella cheese and Parmesan.
Bake the lasagna in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.