Thursday, January 17, 2013

Meaty Mushroom Lasagna adapted from Giada di Laurentiis

         There are few dishes that are better to have on hand than lasagna. Over the years, we’ve all suffered through terrible versions of lasagna--people making the stuff with cottage cheese or ricotta, throwing in chunks of sausage instead of a proper meat sauce, jarred marinara called into use in lieu of homemade--let’s face it, lasagna is often terrible, especially the versions made directly from a box of lasagna noodles.  
          But if you go to the trouble of making a simple béchamel sauce with cheese, making a filling of meat sauce or vegetables  you are on your way to real lasagna. Made up in advance, its flavors meld into each other with the passage of a couple of days.  Kept sealed until plastic wrap topped with a layer of aluminum foil, this lasagna spent a whole week in the fridge before being baked on a night when we had a lot going on.  Nothing could have been easier than firing up the oven, baking the lasagna for 40 minutes, tossing a green salad then sitting down to dinner. 
          Today's version is a wonderfully rich pasta with layers of creamy béchamel, peppery mushrooms, smoky cheese and tiny pieces of prosciutto.  It’s so rich, you may want to practice some portion control when you serve it.  If you have leftovers, reheated in the oven, they too keep for a very long time and can easily make a quick meal anytime you need one.  Now I’ve made classic lasagna for years sharing it with you in its most classic of recipes:  We’ve also gone totally vegetarian with one version: But this lasagna straddles the line with its emphasis on meaty mushrooms and the secondary role the prosciutto takes.  What really comes to the fore is the use of smoked Mozzarella. It changes the character of the whole dish. 
Dino and Giada de Laurentiis 
            Giada de Laurentiis is a tiny dynamo of a woman whose famous grandfather produced some of Hollywood’s most memorable spectaculars. Dino de Laurentiis made 150 films over the course of his 7 decade career including such classics as “La Strada” and “Nights of Cabiria”  The latter may be better known to you as the basis for the musical “Sweet Charity”.  His first movies were made in Italy but in 1976 he relocated not to Hollywood but to Wilmington, North Carolina.  He could make the claim that the still-thriving film and television production there was all his doing.   Among dozens of titles, he made “Serpico”, “Death Wish”, “Mandingo”, “Three Days of the Condor”, “Ragtime” and “Blue Velvet”.   He also introduced the world to Hannibal Lector with a film called “Manhunter”.  But he passed at making its sequel “The Silence of the Lambs”.  
         His granddaughter, Giada, was born in Rome.  But at an early age, her mother brought the family to Southern California.  Her parents divorced and Mother and children all took her maiden name, di Laurentiis. Giada comes by her food pedigree honestly:  Prior to his film career, Dino grew up selling spaghetti made by his father in the town of Torre Annunziata near Naples.   And Dino was quite the foodie himself owning and operating a specialty food retailer, DDL Foodshow with stores in New York and Los Angeles.  Giada studied at the Cordon Bleu and since then she’s been ubiquitous in food television and produced 6 cookbooks since 2005.  She sticks to her Italian roots but there’s a creative mind at work as there certainly was with this recipe for Meaty Mushroom lasagna.  There’s a lot to love here and getting it oven-ready will take you all of about an hour.
         For years, I made lasagna with long crinkle-edged strips of pasta that required boiling in hot water before being put to use in the lasagna dish. Inevitably the kitchen looked like some kind of drying yard for pasta.   The minute I heard about "no-boiling required" lasagna noodles, their sticky, thick cousins never made another appearance in our kitchen.  The "no-boiling required" version is so far superior!  The noodle itself is thinner and the size of about a large postcard.  They are so easy to handle. You just overlap them slightly and you’ve got a lovely thin layer of pasta.  Then it’s just a matter of layering the béchamel, the lasagna noodles, the mushroom mixture, the cheeses until you end up with a layer of béchamel and cheese to pop into your waiting oven.   Or do what I did.  Seal the whole pan up and save it for another day. Or week. 
Recipe for Meaty Mushroom Lasagna adapted from Giada di Laurentiis

     Butter, for greasing the baking dish

     For the Sauce:
     5 tablespoons unsalted butter
     1/2 cup all-purpose flour
     4 cups warm whole milk
     1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
     1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan
     Pinch ground nutmeg
     8 ounce package of cubed prosciutto
     1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra, as needed
     2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more, as needed

     For the Filling:
     3 tablespoons olive oil
     3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at      room temperature
     1 medium onion, chopped
     1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra, as needed
     2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
     3 cloves garlic, minced
     1 1/2 pounds mushrooms....

     (4 Portobellos and the rest Creminis or Baby Bellas)
     1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
     1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
     1 9 oz. package of No Boiling Required Lasagna Noodles
     1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
     1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan
     Olive oil, for drizzling
Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Set aside.
Make the Sauce:
In a 2-quart saucepanmelt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. 

Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. 

Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 8 minutes (do not allow the mixture to boil). Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses and nutmeg. Stir until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth. 

Add the prosciutto, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.

Make the Filling:
In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook, stirring frequently until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, rosemary and thyme and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden and the liquid has evaporated, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
Assemble the lasagna:
Ladle 1/2 cup of the sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish

Lay 3 pasta noodles on top. Spoon 1/2 of the mushroom mixture on top of the pasta. Ladle 1 cup of the sauce over the mushroom mixture and lay 3 more noodles on top. Repeat the layers using the remaining mushroom mixture, 1 cup of sauce and the remaining 3 noodles. 

Top with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with 1 cup smoked mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup ParmesanDrizzle the top with olive oil and bake until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling about 35 to 40 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Cut the lasagna into squares and serve.


  1. Monte, I don't even like mushrooms and I want this, NOW! ;) Your pictures are incredible!!

    Thanks for another beautiful post.


    1. Dear Katie, have you tried the big portobellos? They are the meat substitute in all kinds of vegetarian recipes. Give them a try and see if you like mushrooms when you've tasted these. Or check out the other two lasagnas I have on the blog. You can use the no-boil noodles there too! Have a great weekend. Monte

    2. I've seen the "bellas" and, on your recommendation, will give them a try. I have tried the no-boil noodles and have never gone back. I agree with your opinion of the thicker ones, just not my fave. I do love homemade pasta....when I have time, which is limited. I dream of the day I can retire and just cook.

      I'll let your know how the bellas turn out.

      Thanks, Monte. You're a gem!


  2. Dear Katie, Can't wait to hear what you think. Monte