Things are coming together. We moved into our new, temporary home last weekend, and finally we have a kitchen to cook in! It is still a little under-equipped and we miss our favorite tools and utensils, but it is definitely an upgrade from cooking in a hotel room. Our landlords agreed that their old electric coil stove was ready to be retired, and they installed a new gas stove. There are wise and good people in our world.
Yesterday, our Nikon SLR camera was returned to us. The flash doesn’t seem to be working, but since beautiful photos are taken with natural light and we’ve found the rooms of the house that are the best lit throughout the day, we don’t really care all that much. It even snowed in Minneapolis, the sparkling white outdoor surfaces reflecting the sunlight through our windows. There are no more excuses; it’s time to get cooking.
We put the kitchen through a rigorous set of tests this past week – 12 pans of lasagna over 4 days, to be shared with people who work hard and do their jobs well. Classic lasagna alla bolognese; a vegetable-packed lasagna vegetariana; lasagna con ricotta e spinaci; and the crowd favorite, lasagna alla boscaiola.
Boscaiola comes from bosco, which means “woods” in Italian. A boscaiolo (masculine) or boscaiola (feminine) is a woodsman or woodswoman. Italian dishes with the -alla boscaiola descriptor are often mushroom-based recipes with a rustic, woodsy flavor.
This lasagna recipe is perfect for fall. Wild mushrooms give it an earthy, nutty quality, which is balanced by the trinity of fontina, asiago and parmigiano cheeses and a creamy besciamella sauce. It is the perfect rich and hearty meal to serve to hardworking men and women.
Ingredients for one 9×11 pan
For the lasagna
4 sheets of egg-pasta*
8 cups assorted mushrooms, thinly sliced**
1 bunch flat leaf Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
3/4 cup diced fontina
3/4 cup diced asiago
3/4 cups grated parmigiano
1 batch besciamella (see recipe below)
*Homemade pasta is ideal. Alternatively, use store bought fresh egg pasta. Oven-ready, no-boil dry pasta, such as Barilla’s lasagna, will work, too.
**We used Porcini, Shiitake, Oyster, Portobello and White mushrooms. The Porcini and Shiitake were dried, and in that case need to be rehydrated before use.
For the besciamella
100 g flour (just a bit more than 3/4 cup)
100 g butter (about 4 and 1/3 Tablespoons)
1 liter whole milk
1 dash of salt
1 dash of nutmeg
Prepare the besciamella in advance: Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat, taking care that the butter does not brown. When melted, remove from heat and stir in the flour, mixing with a fork until it forms a paste. Heat the milk gently until warm. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring well after each addition until the mixture is smooth and creamy. When all the milk has been added, return the saucepan to the stove over medium-low heat. Add the salt and nutmeg. Stirring continually to prevent the formation of lumps, allow the mixture to thicken and come to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
If you wish, you can prepare the besciamella a day or so in advance. Store in the refrigerator in a air-tight container.
Prepare the lasagna
Wash and thinly slice the mushrooms. Add olive oil and butter to a large saucepan, and place it over medium heat. Mince the garlic and chop the parsley, and sauté them in the oil and butter. Add the mushrooms, white wine and salt. Let cook over medium heat until the mushrooms release their juices and become dark brown and tender, and the liquids concentrate.
In the meanwhile, dice the fontina and asiago, and grate the parmigiano. Mix the cheeses together in a bowl and set aside.
When the mushrooms are cooked, it is time to assemble the lasagna.
Spread a thin layer of besciamella on the bottom of the pan, and place a layer of pasta on top of it. Add another thin layer of besciamella, followed by a layer of mushrooms. Sprinkle a handful of cheese on top of the mushrooms, and then begin the process all over again with a new layer of pasta. Add another layer of besciamella, a layer of mushrooms, and a sprinkling of cheese. You should have enough for four layers of pasta, finishing with the besciamella, mushrooms and cheese on top.
Bake at 350° until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 45 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
If you wish, the lasagna can be prepared and kept for 2-3 days in the refrigerator before baking. Or, it can be frozen to be baked at a later time.
Download the recipe for Lasagna alla boscaiola.
We paired our lasagna alla boscaiola with a Pinot Grigio by Kris, a producer from the mushroom-rich region of Alto Adige in Northeastern Italy. It is a crisp and refreshing wine, with a bright acidity that complements the creamy cheese in the lasagna.