Once I found out you didn’t have to cook the noodles ahead of time, I became a big fan of homemade lasagna.
It’s true, if you have a juicy enough sauce, the noodles cook along with the rest of the casserole. What a liberating moment.
Usually, I make the “red” lasagna with lots of mushrooms and turkey instead of beef. (I’ll pass that along soon.) But today’s recipe comes from an event for which I needed to make a vegetarian version. I doubled the recipe to make two large aluminum-pan entrees, but the recipe below serves 6. This version is an adaptation from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa).
I love making lasagna for a a pre-Thanksgiving meal as my family arrives for the holiday. Spinach/mushroom or red-sauce/turkey, it’s a great go-to with a green salad and French bread. It’s also great because you can make it ahead of time, even freeze it. Just take it out with enough time for it to “warm up” to nearly room temperature or you’ll be baking much longer than you’d like.
- Large baking dish (at least 8×12)
- large sauce pan or dutch oven
- 2 medium size sauce pans or dutch ovens
- measuring equipment
- wooden spoons
- aluminum foil
- cooking spray
- kosher salt
- good olive oil
- 20-ounce package frozen spinach (thawed)
- Large package dried lasagna noodles
- 4 cups whole milk
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 pounds portabello mushrooms, chopped
- 2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup water
LET’S GET STARTED
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
If you don’t buy pre-sliced mushrooms, rinse them and slice them 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter in large saute pan. When the butter melts, add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes until the mushrooms get tender and release some juice. If they look too dry, add a little more oil.
Add spinach, garlic, sprinkle of salt/pepper, pepper flakes, oregano and water. Cook another 10 minutes to ensure that everything is hot and well incorporated. Taste it to make sure it’s got just enough salt. (Parmesan cheese also is salty, so don’t go overboard.) Set aside.
On medium-low heat, bring milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Stir frequently to avoid scorching. Set aside.
Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter in large saucepan. Add flour and cook 2-3 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Then pour hot milk into butter-flour mixture all at once.
Add 1 tablespoon salt, then pepper, sugar and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with wooden spoon and then with a whisk for about 5 minutes, until thick. Set aside off heat.
Spread some white sauce (a thin layer, just enough to cover bottom) in the bottom of your baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, about 1/3 of the spinach/mushrooms, then 1/4 of grated Parmesan.
Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, spinach/mushrooms and Parmesan.
For top, make final layer of noodles and sauce, then sprinkle rest of cheese on top.
Spray foil with cooking spray and cover your dish, sprayed-foil-side down (will prevent foil from sticking to the cheese). Bake 45 minutes. Then remove foil and cook 15 minutes more until bubbly cheese begins to brown. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then serve hot.
I doubled this recipe and made two gigantic 10×14 inch aluminum trays with 4 layers of noodles. If I were going to do this again, I’d probably add another 20 ounces of spinach and 1/2 pound mushrooms. Adjust spices to taste at the end. The white sauce takes at least 15 minutes to thicken up and it’s still a little thin, so use your judgment. I figured it shouldn’t be too thick because the noodles are going to soak up a lot of liquid from the pan, especially if it’s refrigerated overnight.
Come back to NewinNOLA.com every week for “Southfacin’ Cook,” where Patsy explains the basics to Southern cooking and eating. Contact her with suggestions, questions or requests at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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