Weekly Winner:  Lasagna stripped bare and a bit boozy

I dearly love lasagna.  Any kind of lasagna. You can put sausage, ground beef or even chicken in it. It lends itself to a myriad of vegetables and really any type of cheese you can imagine. But, what if you stripped it bare?  No meat, no veggies, no distractions. Just layer after layer of pasta sheets bathed in a simple bechamel that’s been fortified (literally and figuratively) with some booze (in this case Marsala). What happens then?  Magic, I tell ya.  Sheer and utter magic.

I pulled this recipe for Lasagna in Bianco ages ago from Gourmet Magazine (just the fact that there was a Gourmet Magazine gives you a hint as to how long ago).  I have made this before but for whatever reason, it did not make it as a Weekly Winner.  All I can say is that must have been one heck of a week meal-wise if something else beat this out. And yes, I realize it does have Parmesan cheese in it, but compared to most lasagnas, not much and most of it is on the top.

You’ll have to excuse the picture.  Apparently when you strip a lasagna of everything that is not beige it does lack something in photographic appeal.  But trust me, it lacks nothing in pure pasta wonderfulness.

Lasagna in Bianco

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

3 3/4 cups whole milk

1 cup rich chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup dry Marsala

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided

12 (7- by 3-inch) no-boil egg lasagna sheets

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats back of spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup cheese.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over bottom of an 11- by 8-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.

Weekly Winner: Fungi Fabulousness

mushroom lasagnaI love mushrooms.  I love pasta.  I also love cheese and white sauce.  Therefore this lasagna was really a no-brainer.  I knew it would be fabulous.  But it was incredibly fabulous.  Earthy, savory, creamy, luscious – just plain yummy.  Like all lasagna, I think it actually was as good as it was because I made it early and froze it for a while.

Last Monday I found myself in a cooking frenzy.  If I had been thinking about making it, it got made on Monday.  I made soups, slow-cooker recipes and this lasagna.  We didn’t have it until Friday and after three very long, crazy days working late and not being home, knowing I had this gem tucked away in the freezer made me very happy.  And then I ate it and was incredibly happy.

The recipe (and the photo) comes from Sunset Magazine and thanks to the no-boil noodles was incredibly easy to make.  I was far too anxious to dig in and far too exhausted to remember to snap a picture myself.  But trust me… mine looked exactly like this!

Mushroom and Fresh Herb Lasagna

Serves 12

Ingredients

12 no-boil lasagna noodles (1/2 lb.)

1 qt. milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup flour

About 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

About 1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, divided

About 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided

2 medium leeks, sliced into thin rings

1 1/2 pounds portabella mushrooms, sliced

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. coarsely shredded Asiago cheese

Instructions:

  1. Soften noodles in a pan of very hot water while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Make béchamel (white sauce): Bring milk to a simmer in a saucepan and remove from heat. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened, 2 minutes. Whisk milk into flour mixture all at once and whisk until smooth.  Add 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and the nutmeg. Sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon; if it isn’t, cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in garlic, 2 tbsp. parsley, and 1/2 tbsp. thyme. Keep covered.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°. Heat a deep, wide pot over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Swirl in 1 tbsp. oil and add leeks. Cook until tender but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Scoop leeks into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Swirl 2 tbsp. oil into pot. Add mushrooms, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, covered, until mushrooms are tender and beginning to release juices, about 5 minutes.  Uncover and cook until edges start to brown. Stir in leeks and remaining  1/2 tbsp. thyme. Remove from heat.
  5. Mix parmesan with Asiago.
  6. Assemble lasagna: Oil a 9- by 13-in. baking dish.  Spread a few spoonfuls of béchamel over bottom. Arrange 3 noodles crosswise in dish, then spoon on about 1/2 cup béchamel, followed by a third of the mushrooms and 1/3 cup cheeses. Repeat layers twice more. Top with a final layer of noodles and béchamel, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  7. Bake lasagna until browned and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp. parsley and let sit at least 15 minutes before slicing.