Monday, January 25, 2010

Vegetarian Umami: Mushroom Lasagna with Creamy Béchamel

There are many different kinds of vegetarian lasagna. Some have a white sauce; some have marinara. Some have spinach and ricotta; some have roasted vegetables. I think it’s rare to find mushroom lasagna, which is unfortunate because it is so delicious!

I have been making this recipe for many years. It is a perfect entrée for vegetarians to enjoy, and one that is so hearty the meat-eaters won’t miss the meat. This lasagna is perfect to serve for a dinner party. You can even make it a day ahead, and then heat it up before your guests arrive (like a good soup, lasagna is better the next day!). I’ll make this for me and my husband and it will last us the week. Or we’ll freeze individual serving sizes to warm up and enjoy another day. It pairs perfectly with a light salad.

The mushrooms create an earthy and savory flavor (Umami, anyone?), and the Béchamel is light and creamy. If you can purchase your mushrooms pre-sliced, you will save a lot of time. If you can’t, it’s still worth the time to slice all of the mushrooms! I’m normally the type of cook who will multitask in the kitchen and have several pots going at once. If you haven’t made a Béchamel sauce before, I recommend giving it your full attention. If you’re not constantly stirring, your flour may clump, and if you turn your back for one minute, your milk might burn.

Mushroom Lasagna with Creamy Béchamel
(From Cooking Light, April, 2004)
Mushroom filling:
2 cups boiling water
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 ounce)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 1 ½ pounds)
3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms (about ½ pound)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Côtes du Rhône or other fruity red wine
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh or ¾ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cups 1% low-fat milk
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Remaining ingredients:
Cooking spray
1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

To prepare filling, combine water and porcini in a small bowl; let stand 30 minutes. Drain porcini through a sieve over a bowl, squeezing porcini to extract liquid. Reserve 1 ½ cups liquid; discard remaining liquid. Rinse porcini, and drain. Chop coarsely; set aside.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add shiitake mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms release moisture and begin to brown. Stir in porcini, wine, and soy sauce. Cook 4 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring frequently. Stir in parsley and rosemary. Add the reserved porcini liquid; bring to a simmer. Cook until liquid is reduced to ¾ cup (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in ¼ teaspoon pepper.

To prepare béchamel, place milk in a 4-cup glass measure. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes or until hot, stirring after 2 minutes. Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stirring with a whisk, and cook 1 minute or until bubbly, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a simmer; cook over low heat 8 minutes or until sauce slightly thickens, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and stir in ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread ½ cup béchamel in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over béchamel; top with ½ cup béchamel. Top with 1 cup mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with ¼ cup cheese. Repeat layers three times (dish will be very full). Cover with foil; place baking dish on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Uncover lasagna; bake an additional 15 minutes or until cheese melts.


  1. My DH would love this!!! Unfortunately, I really dislike mushrooms. One of the foods I just *cannot* come around to. I don't understand eating fungus, but I wish I did, because it would open up so many more dishes for me to eat. :)

  2. No mushrooms?!? Oh, so you're one of *those*. ;) Mushrooms are awesome to cook with because they are so versatile and take on so many different flavors. If you wind up with 4 boys who like mushrooms, you guys should definitely try this! :)