Forget about overstuffed layers and an overflowing casserole dish. We layer our vegetarian lasagna the same way we top a pizza—with a light hand. You want to scatter just enough cheese and vegetables on the layers to flavor, but not overwhelm. This delicate vegetarian dish plays up the cheese, complementing it with the flavors of mushrooms and spinach. You can use any fresh mushrooms you like. Here we use the combination of 2/3 cremini and 1/3 shiitake mushrooms for good flavor without too much expense. Try experimenting with different types of mushrooms, but salt them sparingly, as the Parmesan acts as salt in this dish.–Sue Conley and Peggy Smith
LC Isn't Béchamel Another French Word For Love? Note
As one of our devoted and dear readers, Laura Semrau, surmised upon seeing this recipe, “Isn’t béchamel another French word for love?” Hah. Exactly, Laura. Speaking of acts of love, the creators of this lovely, understated, and elegant, albeit time-consuming, vegetarian lasagna recipe caution against overstuffing the layers in their note above. They say nothing about overlayering, though. Meaning, in the authors’ words, “if you use fresh pasta that’s rolled very thin, you can even form 8 or 10 layers.” Sorta like those fancy and frivolous French pastries known as mille-feuilles, which literally translates to “thousand leaves.” The authors note that with dried or thicker pasta sheets, you’ll want fewer layers, natch. Up to you.
Vegetarian Lasagna Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 2 H
- 3 H
- Serves 8 to 10
- For the béchamel
- 3 cups milk (whole or low-fat)
- 2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- For the filling
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- 4 cups fresh spinach leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 6 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (any type, preferably a mix of cremini and shiitake)
- For the assembly
- Butter, for the baking dish
- 1 pound fresh pasta sheets or dried lasagna noodles
- 8 ounces Gruyère or Comte cheese, grated
- 6 ounces fromage blanc or soft goat cheese
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
- Start the béchamel
- 1. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until small bubbles form. Remove the pan from the heat and toss the porcini in the milk. Set the mixture aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Make the filling
- 2. Meanwhile, melt 1 teaspoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, salt, and a few grinds black pepper and decrease the heat to medium. Cook, tossing now and then, until the spinach has shrunk by half and is wilted but not completely collapsed, about 3 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a bowl to cool. Wipe out the skillet.
- 3. Heat the olive oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the onion and garlic and sauté, still over medium heat, stirring just until the onion softens. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms just barely begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Take the skillet off the heat.
- Finish the béchamel
- 4. After 1 hour, strain the milk and porcini mixture into a small saucepan, squeezing as much milk from the porcinis as you can. (If you don’t have a fine strainer, it may be necessary to strain the infused milk through cheesecloth to rid it of any small flecks of dirt or what not from the porcini.) Chop the porcini and add them to the mushrooms in the skillet.
- 5. Warm the infused milk over low heat. When it begins to show small bubbles, turn off the heat. In another small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When it’s melted and the foaming has subsided, stir in the flour. Keep stirring until the flour begins to darken just slightly, about 2 minutes. Take it off the heat when it’s about the color of butter. Let the mixture cool for 30 seconds and then whisk the butter-flour mixture vigorously while you pour in 1 cup warm porcini-steeped milk. Return the pan to medium-high heat and keep whisking, being certain to get the whisk into the edge the pan. Whisk until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly pour in as much of the remaining milk as needed, a little at a time, to achieve the desired consistency. Whisk in the salt and pepper to taste.
- Assemble the vegetarian lasagna
- 6. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter a lasagna pan or deep baking dish. (Don’t worry about the size of your pan. Just make sure the pan you choose is relatively deep.)
- 7. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the pasta sheets or lasagna noodles according to the package directions or the recipe if using homemade pasta. Drain and rinse the pasta.
- 8. Arrange enough pasta as needed to cover the bottom of the pan or baking dish in slightly overlapping fashion. Sprinkle 1/3 of the sautéed mushrooms over the pasta and then top with 1/3 of the Gruyère or Comte. Add another layer of pasta. Dump 1/3 of the béchamel sauce over the pasta, smoothing it evenly with the back of the spoon. Arrange 1/2 the spinach on the béchamel sauce. Top with 1/2 the fromage blanc or goat cheese, dropping small spoonfuls on top of the spinach. Add another layer of pasta. Repeat the layering with 1/2 the remaining sautéed mushrooms and 1/2 the remaining Gruyère or Comte. Add another layer of pasta. Top with 1/2 the remaining béchamel, the remaining spinach, and the remaining fromage blanc. Spread the remaining sautéed mushrooms and Gruyère or Comte over the top. Spoon the remaining béchamel over the top, smoothing it evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.
- 9. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and decrease the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C). Bake the lasagna until the cheese on top is bubbly and starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Take the lasagna out of the oven and let it cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
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Vegetarian Lasagna Recipe © 2013 Sue Conley and Peggy Smith. Photo © 2013 Hirsheimer & Hamilton. All rights reserved.
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