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Artichoke Mushroom Lasagna

I love all kinds of lasagna – from Italian-American style red-sauce, ricotta-filled lasagna, to the traditional Italian lasagna from Emilia-Romagna that uses no ricotta but béchamel sauce instead. This recipe is the latter, and with spring upon us here in the Northeast U.S., artichokes are in season so why not make them the star of the dish? I added mushrooms too, but you can eliminate them and just feature artichokes. Feel free to trim and cook fresh artichokes, but they’re also available frozen, which is what I used, and they are a huge time-saver.

However, I did make my own pasta from scratch and it’s a game changer. If you don’t want to make your own pasta, a good substitute is a brand like Rana that’s as close to homemade as I’ve ever found (but there’s nothing like freshly homemade pasta for its toothiness and supple texture.)

Make the pasta and let it sit while you prepare the rest. You’ll use only half this amount of pasta for this recipe. Use the rest to make fettuccine or fazzoletti or whatever other shape you like.

After making the pasta, sauté the mushrooms. Make sure to cook them on high heat and leave them alone rather than continually tossing them, so they develop a nice brown outer coating.

Set the mushrooms aside in a bowl and saute the shallots and artichoke hearts in the same pan, then combine them all in a bowl. Cut some of the artichokes in half if they’re too thick.

Time to make the béchamel sauce. Place the butter in a pan with the flour and cook those together for a couple of minutes to eliminate a “flour-y” taste. Then slowly add the milk, the broth (if using), the bay leaf and other seasonings, whisking all the time. I don’t like the béchamel to become too thick, because the pasta absorbs a lot of it and the lasagna can easily become too dry if the sauce is too thick. So don’t let it get as thick as pudding, for example. If it does, thin it out with more milk or broth. It should closer in thickness to pourable brown gravy.

Now that the béchamel is made, boil the pasta sheets. They will need only a minute in the boiling water, since they’ll cook more in the casserole once it’s in the oven. Drain well, and/or pat dry.

Butter the casserole first, then pour in a little béchamel. Place the first layer of pasta in the casserole, cutting to fit.

Add half the mushroom and artichoke mixture, more béchamel, some parmesan and dabs of taleggio cheese.

Add another layer of pasta, cutting to fit.

Then layer on more béchamel, the rest of the mushrooms and artichokes, and more parmesan and taleggio.

Cover with another layer of pasta and the rest of the béchamel, more parmesan and more taleggio cheese. (A diet dish this is not!)

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour-40 minutes until browned on top and piping hot. I know it will be hard to resist cutting into it right away, but let it rest for at least 15 minutes before trying to slice it, or it will spill out and not hold its shape.

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Artichoke Mushroom Lasagna
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups 00 flour
  • (or buy already made lasagna sheets)
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • 4 cups baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons buttter
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen artichokes
  • 1 large shallot, finely minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
  • salt, pepper
  • 7 ounces Taleggio cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • FOR THE BECHAMEL SAUCE:
  • ½ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 4 cups milk or 2 cups milk and 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt, pepper
  • a few grindings of grated nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Make the pasta by placing the flour in the food processor add adding the eggs.
  2. Hold back about ½ cup flour and add it after you've mixed the initial flour and eggs to see if you need to add more.
  3. If it's too wet, add more flour, even more than the ½ cup you reserved,if needed.
  4. The dough should not be sticky, but should not be dry either.
  5. You want it to be pliable enough to roll out.
  6. I like to remove it from the food processor and knead it a minute or two on the board.
  7. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at least ½ hour to let the glutens relax.
  8. Roll on a pasta machine to the next to the last thin setting.
  9. When ready to assemble the lasagna, boil the pasta for just a minute, then drain and pat dry.
  10. It will continue to cook the rest of the way in the oven.
  11. FOR THE FILLING:
  12. Boil the artichokes in water for five minutes.
  13. Drain the artichokes, and remove from the water, but retain the water and let it reduce so you can use the flavored water in the bechamel sauce later.
  14. If the artichokes are too thick, slice them thinner.
  15. Place the butter in a skillet on high heat and add the mushrooms.
  16. Let them sear on high heat to get some color and caramelization.
  17. Remove from the heat and place the mushrooms in a bowl.
  18. Lower temperature of pan.
  19. Add the olive oil and the minced shallots and sauté until the shallots are wilted.
  20. Add the cooked artichokes and seasonings.
  21. Saute with the olive oil and shallots for a few minutes.
  22. Add the artichokes to the bowl with the mushrooms.
  23. TO MAKE THE BECHAMEL:
  24. Melt the butter in a saucepan.
  25. Add the flour and stir with a spoon or whisk and let the flour cook for a minute or two.
  26. Slowly add the milk and the vegetable broth (or just milk alone if not using vegetable broth.)
  27. Add the bay leaf and other seasonings and let them meld together.
  28. Keep stirring with a whisk to make sure there are no lumps.
  29. Remove the bay leaf.
  30. Set sauce aside and assemble lasagna.
  31. TO ASSEMBLE:
  32. Spread some of the béchamel sauce on the bottom of a lasagna pan or casserole.
  33. My lasagna dish measured 9" x 11½ "
  34. Add one layer of the pasta.
  35. Cover with half of the artichoke and mushroom mixture.
  36. Dabble with some of the Taleggio cheese.
  37. Spread with more of the bechamel sauce and some of the parmesan cheese.
  38. Add a second layer of pasta, the rest of the artichoke and mushroom mixture.
  39. Dabble with more taleggio cheese, bechamel and parmesan.
  40. Cover with another layer of pasta, then spread the rest of the bechamel, parmesan and taleggio cheese on top.
  41. This can all be done one day ahead of time and refrigerated.
  42. On the day of serving, remove from refrigerator and let sit for one hour on the counter to bring to room temperature.
  43. Place covered with aluminum foil, in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.
  44. Remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the top is browned.
  45. Remove from the oven and let the lasagna rest at least 15 minutes before serving.
 

Butternut squash and greens

If you haven’t already noticed from all the butternut squash recipes I’ve posted lately, it’s one of my favorite vegetables – winter or summer. It makes a great soup, filling for lasagna, or even a delicious base for ice cream. It’s also wonderful just as a vegetable side dish, as pictured here. My friend Dede made this dish a while ago for a luncheon of our Italian chit-chat group, and I wanted to eat the whole plateful. But I played nice and left some for others. Then  I went home and made more just for me. I used kale in my version, since that’s what I had at home, but I much prefer it with swiss chard or spinach, as Dede made it.

You could even add some chick peas or cannellini beans to make this a vegetarian dish with complete proteins, or serve it as a side dish with a piece of grilled meat, as I did.

 

Butternut Squash and Greens
Note: Dede cooked her squash in a skillet, but I tossed the pieces with olive oil and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
2 T. olive oil
1 3/4 lb. peeled and diced butternut squash, sprinkled with salt and pepper
a couple of large handfuls of greens, chopped – spinach, swiss chard or kale
1/4 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
grated parmigiano reggiano sprinkled on top (I omitted it)
pine nuts
Heat 2 T oil in skillet and cook 1 ¾ lb peeled and ¾’ diced squash sprinkled with S & P
Partially cover with lid…heat on med to low and cook until squash begins  to brown…
Add onions and raisins (I used cranberries and raisins)…cook until tender and browned
Add spinach or other greens until wilted.
Remove and add Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or pine nuts to taste