I almost didn’t post this lasagna because I took precisely zero good pictures of it, but then I figured it might be way too long before you have this lasagna in your life. I know I’m already sad that I didn’t make like 3 batches of it to freeze because at this point in my pregnancy, I’m having a hard time standing for really long periods of time in the kitchen, so I’m not sure the next time we’ll be eating this.
On a related note, let’s just get this out of the way: there are a lot of steps to making this lasagna. None of them are difficult, but it is a bit time-consuming, and there is a lot of “cook this and then set it aside” and “use a million bowls” kind of stuff. I’m sure that since it’s a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, you would expect nothing less than a novella for the instructions, and they deliver. Still, like I said, nothing is particularly difficult, and the end result is totally and completely worth it.
I’ve mentioned my love for mushrooms many, many times and this lasagna absolutely makes them shine. Quadruple-y . First, porcini mushrooms are soaked and you use both the reconstituted mushrooms and the soaking liquid. Then, portobello mushrooms are roasted until they’re shriveled and their flavor is concentrated. And then chopped button mushrooms are used in the filling. The recipe uses pancetta, and while I love pancetta and totally advocate for its use here (particularly in combination with the mushrooms), I think this lasagna would also be fantastic omitting it completely to please vegetarian eaters.
This lasagna is incredibly rich. The mushrooms impart a deep, earthy flavor, the sauce is creamy, and of course there’s cheese. What’s different about this lasagna is that it includes essentially a basil gremolata on the top—a mixture of fresh basil, lemon zest, and garlic—which brightens the dish and adds a little freshness.
Make this lasagna, and I promise you won’t regret it. And feel free to bring me some if you’re nearby, too.
Mushroom Lasagna with Pancetta and Sage
Barely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
1 cup water
2 lbs. portobello mushroom caps (about 10 medium mushrooms), cut into slices
4 Tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/4″ pieces
2 large red onions, diced
8 oz. button mushrooms, halved
4 cloves garlic, minced and divided
1/2 cup dry vermouth
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
3.5 cups milk
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, divided
1 Tbsp. minced fresh sage
8 oz. Italian fontina cheese, shredded
1.5 oz. Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
Cover porcinis with water in a microwave-safe bowl (I just used my glass measuring cup since it already had the measured water in it). Cover with plastic wrap, and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife; microwave on high 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). Line a mesh strainer with a paper towel, and then pour the porcini liquid through the strainer into medium bowl. Set mushrooms and liquid aside.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425ºF. Spread portobello mushrooms in even layer on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. oil, tossing to coat mushrooms evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and lightly 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.
While portobellos roast, heat 1 Tbsp. oil and pancetta in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until pancetta is browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to large bowl; pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat. Add onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned around edges, about 8 minutes. Transfer onions to the bowl with the pancetta and set aside.
Meanwhile, process button mushrooms in food processor until uniformly coarsely chopped, about 6-8 quick pulses. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped button mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and all moisture has evaporated, 6-8 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium and stir in porcini mushrooms, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add vermouth and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 2-3 minutes.
Add butter and cook until melted. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Slowly add reserved porcini soaking liquid, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Stir in milk and nutmeg; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce has thickened and reached the consistency of heavy cream, 10 to 15 minutes (you should have about 4 cups). Remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbsp. of the parsley and sage.
Place noodles in 13×9″ 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.
Meanwhile, toss the cooled portobello mushrooms together with the onions in the large bowl. Combine fontina and Parmesan in another medium bowl.
Using rubber spatula, evenly distribute 1 cup sauce over the bottom of the baking dish; position 3 noodles on top of sauce. Spread 3/4 cup sauce evenly over noodles followed by 2 cups mushroom-onion mixture and 3/4 cup cheese. Repeat layering of noodles, sauce, mushroom-onion mixture, 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.
While lasagna is baking, combine remaining 2 Tbsp. parsley and remaining clove minced garlic with basil and lemon 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 sprinkle evenly with herb mixture. Cool 15 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve.
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