Three-cheese vegetarian lasagna is easy and exceptional and even sorta elegant anytime of year BUT we especially welcome it at the Thanksgiving table when we need something vegetarian and lovely. Here’s exactly how to make it plus what kind of cheeses work best.
This three-cheese vegetarian lasagna is a lovely layering of creamy, cheesy lusciousness made with mushrooms, pasta, spinach, and béchemal. 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. Exactly. And you can never have enough love at the Thanksgiving table, which is when we tend to showcase this lovely vegetarian entrée.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Three-Cheese Vegetarian Lasagna
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 2/3 cremini and 1/3 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter a lasagna pan or deep baking dish or roasting pan. (Don’t worry about the precise size of your pan. Just choose a pan that’s relatively deep so you can be sure to contain all those luscious layers.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This three-cheese vegetarian lasagna recipe was FANTASTIC! It took a bit of time to make, but it was so worth it! This is a big hit with any mushroom lover! Makes a great main dish or can be used as a side dish. It took me 3 1/2 hours to prep. The baking time was a quick 40 minutes. The next time I make this, it will take a lot less time now that I know all the steps. The recipe sounds more complicated then it really is. It’s warm. lovely, and earthy. A big hit with all my tasters. Bring this to your next potluck and you will be a hero! Great recipe. Loved it!
What a deliciously indulgent three-cheese vegetarian lasagna recipe! The combination of the nutty Gruyère along with the tangy fromage blanc was truly harmonious. This creamy version is a great alternative to the more traditional tomato sauce variety. I’ve made a handful of meatless lasagnas, and most recipes overcompensate with a really strong garlic flavor in order to replace the flavors that meat would provide. The dried mushrooms in this recipe contribute a huge amount of flavor, as do the Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses, leaving the garlic as a simple flavor enhancer. This lasagna requires a pretty good time commitment; in fact, about halfway through the cooking process, I was questioning my decision to make it. However, after the accurately described 3-hour process, let me say it was WELL worth the time and effort. I only have a few comments that I’d consider for next time. The spinach quantity was a little stingy. I think that this quantity could be doubled to 8 cups. I still love that the mushrooms take center stage, though. I also really struggled to find dried porcini mushrooms as well as fromage blanc, and had to make a couple of grocery store stops before finding them. I think that a number of dried mushroom varieties could be substituted in a pinch without compromising the flavor. Greek yogurt is a great substitute if fromage blanc can’t be found. I’m looking forward to making this dish again and again and sharing it with many friends. It’s so delicious!
I enjoyed making this three-cheese vegetarian lasagna recipe. Flavoring the milk for the béchamel sauce with porcini mushrooms is simply brilliant. Despite being a time-consuming recipe, it produced a light, flavorful lasagna. I used homemade pasta sheets as lasagna noodles. I reduced my baking time by a few minutes as I used thin, fresh lasagna noodles.
I’ve been making a variation on this three-cheese vegetarian lasagna recipe for a long time now and this seemed like an interesting twist on my normal recipe. Mushroom lasagna can be so elegant and decadent, not to mention an impressive crowd-pleaser. This should be a regular in people’s rotations. The milk didn’t take on as much of the porcini flavor as I had hoped. Maybe I’ll add a few more next time. I’ll also make a larger amount of the béchamel—using 4 cups milk instead of 3, perhaps, as the amount didn’t seem to be adequate. Everything else was fantastic. I used a mixture of shiitake and cremini mushrooms, as per the recipe’s suggestion, and they were just fabulous. I may just splurge next time and use more shiitakes because they are so delicious. I might play around with adding some herbs in the future, too—thyme, perhaps. I also might throw some chèvre in there in the future, as I think replacing the fromage blanc with a soft, tangy chèvre could be amazing.
Originally published November 10, 2017