Happy New Year to everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve posted any new recipes because of the holidays, some traveling and a pesky flu that took me out of commission briefly. However, I’m full of ideas for 2009 and I will be focusing on interesting uses for local produce, various cooking techniques and a commitment to somewhat healthier and lighter cooking (but there will still be some decadent treats as well!)
Today’s recipe doesn’t exactly fall into the ‘light’ category. However, it is delicious and despite the numerous steps, quite easy to pull together. And it can be made in advance so it’s the perfect dish to serve for entertaining – you can assemble it the night before and just pop it into the oven as your guests arrive. You can serve with a salad and light dessert such as fruit and gelato to cut the richness and create a balanced menu. It’s the perfect comfort food for a cold winter night!
A note about lasagna noodles: Using fresh noodles (either store-bought or homemade) makes assembling the dish easy and yields the best result. However, if you can’t find fresh noodles, you can either use oven-ready dried noodles or regular dried lasagna noodles. If using regular dried noodles that need to be cooked in advance, boil for only half the recommended time. There is enough moisture in the sauce to finish cooking the noodles and you will avoid overcooked, mushy noodles.
Sausage and Mushroom Lasagna
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Sausage and Mushroom Sauce:
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 10 medium button or cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/2″ thick slices (about 2 cups of sliced mushrooms)
- 4 mild or sweet Italian sausages, casings removed (see Kitchen Tip of the Week for an efficient method)
- 28 fl.oz / 796 ml can of good quality canned tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped oregano OR 1-1/2 teaspoons dried
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2-1/2 cups milk (2% or whole)
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Salt, to taste
- 5 or 6 fresh lasagna noodles (store-bought or homemade – see note about noodles above)
- 5 oz / 140 g grated or thinly sliced mozzarella (about 1-1/2 cups packed shredded cheese)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Sausage and Mushroom Sauce:
- In a large, deep skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until transparent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add mushroom slices. Saute for about 8 minutes or until they are beginning to brown. Remove mushrooms and onion from pan and set aside.
- Add the final Tablespoon of olive oil to pan. Add sausage and turn heat to medium-high. Break up sausage meat with a spatula and cook until just browned, about 5 minutes.
- Return mushroom/onion mix to pan and add oregano and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine ingredients. Add canned tomatoes and break up with a spoon.
- Let sauce simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. While sauce is simmering, prepare Béchamel Sauce (see below).
- After sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, stir tomato paste into sauce until thoroughly incorporated. Season with sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Note: this sauce is delicious on it’s own with penne or rigatoni!
- In a large saucepan, heat butter on medium heat until just melted. Whisk in flour, making sure it is fully incorporated into the butter. Cook flour/butter mixture for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Add 1/2 cup milk, whisking briskly as you pour it. Mix well into the flour and butter, ensuring it makes a smooth sauce with no lumps. Continue to add the rest of the milk slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly.
- Cook sauce for about 5 to 7 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Do not let the milk boil or burn. Add nutmeg and season with salt to taste.
Assembling the lasagna:
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a 9″ X 12″ X 3″ deep (approximately) baking dish, spread a scoopful of sausage sauce so it covers the bottom of pan in a thin layer (about 1 cup of sauce). Spoon about 1/2 to 3/4 cup béchamel sauce over sausage mix. Cover sauces with a single layer of fresh noodles, cut to fit as necessary (it may require cutting up a couple of noodles to fit along the edges properly).
- Repeat layering: sausage mix/béchamel/noodles, sausage mix/béchamel/noodles, sausage mix/béchamel. Do not top with a final layer of noodles.
- If baking immediately*, sprinkle top layer with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, making sure they are evenly distributed. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and browned. If lasagna has been refrigerated, it may take a little bit longer to brown so adjust baking time accordingly.
- Serve with a green salad and a nice Italian red wine.
*Note for making lasagna in advance: if you are making it to bake at a later time, do not add cheese until just before cooking or it will dry out. Cover with saran and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!