Published September 1, 2006.
Exotic mushrooms and homemade pasta practically guarantee great mushroom lasagna—if you've got money to spend. But what if you have to rely on supermarket staples?
American-style mushroom lasagnas lose the mushrooms in a sea of tomato sauce and mozzarella. Italian-style recipes put the emphasis on the mushrooms, but many call for esoteric or expensive wild mushrooms as well as a lot of preparation time.
We wanted to make Italian-style mushroom lasagna approachable, which meant widely available mushrooms and no-boil noodles.
We set about to deconstruct the lasagna layers. For the primary mushrooms, we found that roasting portobellos concentrated their flavor. The texture of the sauce was a problem (our no-boil noodles sucked up all the moisture), but a very loose béchamel sauce had the right consistency, and attained substantial mushroom flavor when we replaced conventional chicken broth with the water used to rehydrate dried porcinis. We ultimately maximized the mushroom flavor by mixing in duxelles (sautéed, finely chopped button mushrooms) flavored with garlic and vermouth. But now we needed sweet, sharp, salty, and bright elements to balance the earthiness of all these mushrooms. Sautéed red onions and Parmesan cheese contributed all these flavors, and Fontina cheese added a complementary buttery nuttiness. Finally, we added a gremolata-like topping of minced parsley, basil, lemon zest, and garlic for complexity and freshness.list of recipes