Lasagna with a velvety béchamel sauce and a deeply flavored filling of spinach and portobello mushrooms hints at the coming spring from the snow-enveloped comfort of home.
Oh, what a long, cold winter it’s been, friends. The hopeful among us who’d been looking to March as a white knight have now been unequivocally informed that there will be more white and less knight, at least for the present. Well, March, I’ve never much liked you anyway, at least until the 17th; and this year, you’ll need to haul out the really good beer to make amends for this dastardly start of yours. Fourteen degrees, is that what you’ve got? There had better be a complimentary Irish castle tour for two at the end of this story. Bring it, beeotch. I’m already packed.
But umami girl, you ask thoughtfully, won’t you need those clothes in the next couple of weeks? Thanks for looking out for me, buddy; but frankly, they were getting a little snug anyway, what with all the not leaving of the house and the eating of copious quantities of comfort foods. (Great news, though – gorging on comfort now makes a girl trendy.) Speaking of which, have I got a gorgeous lasagna for you. Packed with the goodness of spinach and portobellos, it uses both pillowy ricotta and a luscious béchamel sauce to fortify us against these last, cruel days of winter. As a bonus, it’s so on-trend right now that I think I saw someone wearing it as a tote on the Lower East Side yesterday. Brains, beauty and brawn. What more could you need?
Spinach and Portobello Lasagna
6 Tablespoons butter, divided
6 large Portobello mushrooms
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 boxes frozen spinach (not chopped is preferable, but chopped is fine)
32 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, divided
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
1 box Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
For the Filling
Finely chop the portobellos (into about ¼ inch dice), or roughly chop them with a knife and then pulse briefly in a food processor to achieve the same result.
Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the portobellos and sauté until very fragrant and beginning to brown. Add the onion and garlic, along with a good pinch of salt, and reduce the heat to medium. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions and garlic have softened a bit but not browned.
Meanwhile, cook the spinach according to package directions, but just to the point that it is warm. Drain and let it sit until it is cool enough to handle, and then pick it up by the handful and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat lightly. Add the ricotta, ¾ cup Parmigiano cheese, the portobello mixture, the drained spinach, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Mix throroughly.
For the Béchamel Sauce
Melt the remaining 4 Tablespoons butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute. Add the milk, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring almost constantly. When the mixture boils, reduce the heat so it is simmering vigorously and cook for ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon. Turn off the heat and add ¾ cup Parmigiano cheese, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
To Assemble and Bake the Lasagna
Soak the lasagna noodles in a bowl of hot tap water for five minutes.
Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking pan. Spread a thin layer of the béchamel to coat the bottom of the pan. Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles over the sauce. Top the noodles with half of the ricotta filling mixture. Repeat with another layer of béchamel, noodles and ricotta filling. For the last layer, put the remaining 1/3 of the noodles directly over the second layer of ricotta filling, pour the remaining béchamel on top, and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of Parmigiano cheese.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes to brown the top. Rest the lasagna for 10 minutes or so before serving.