I’m not gonna lie. Some days absolutely, completely and utterly suck. No way around it. No silver linings. No pretending that you enjoyed any part of it. Some days are just the worst.
When you wake up to frozen baby plants. And then you go to the greenhouse and see droopy tomatoes. That’s a bad start to a day. A very bad start indeed. Both very fixable, not at all dire problems that happen all too often when one is a farmer, but stressful and defeating and mentally exhausting nonetheless.
When you call your Carrot husband at work only to make his stress levels rise in a situation he cannot fix from work. And then to go to the doctor for a minor appointment to only have it drag on and on and on so you too cannot fix the farm crises. Then quickly a whole beautiful day off is wasted, the sunshine hides and the rain won’t stop because well, it’s April. That’s a continuation of a very bad day.
Some days are just like this. What could go wrong does and you handle it all poorly and the day just spirals (rapidly) out of control. And the solution to days like these is always so simple: a home brew (or 5) with the one you love, a foolproof recipe that combines two favorite food women and a night in with nothing but relaxation on the horizon.
And this lasagna. This lasagna makes the sadness melt away and lets the happiness back in, even before you eat it, as it bakes and the house turns warm with all the yummy garlicky smells.
I did some adapting (though we know Deb’s adaptation of Ina’s original recipe was flawless and that neither woman ever really needs adapting) simply because we didn’t have enough mushrooms and I was determined to make a full pan of lasagna anyways. And also, more cheese is always the answer when you’re feeling over dramatic and stressed out. I think I learned that from my mother. Mom, you are always right. Why did it take me so long to learn this?!
So save this recipe and make it when life sucks. I promise it will make things better. And as Deb says, her only gripe with this recipe “is the number of pots it uses.” Yes, it is a four pot meal. So do yourself a favor and do the dishes later.
All my love,
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Mushroom Lasagna
**Ina Gartner used portabella mushrooms. Deb Perlman used cremini mushrooms. I’m with Deb on this one. Cremini (also known as baby bellas) are almost always my mushroom of choice. They are a great, cheaper alternative to their portabella cousin, but use whatever mushrooms you have on hand and enjoy.
Takes 1 hour
Makes 6-8 servings (depending on how much cheese you can eat)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), divided
1/2 medium red onion, minced
3/4 pound mushrooms**, washed and thinly sliced
8 ounces dried lasagna noodles
2 cups whole milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 cup shredded Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil on the stove. Add a sprinkle of Kosher salt and a couple drops of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking.
While waiting for the water to boil, begin preparing the mushroom filling. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes until soft and fragrant. Add the mushrooms along with a bit of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Saute for 10 minutes until mushrooms are soft and just beginning to release their juices. They will also reduce dramatically in volume. Set aside.
Combine milk and garlic in a small saucepan on the stove. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. (You can also heat it in the microwave). Once simmering, set aside.
By now, the pasta water should be boiling. Add the lasagna noodles. Cook for 8 minutes. Drain. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add the flour and combine with a spatula. Cook over low heat for 1 minute, scraping consistently so that it does not brown. Congrats! You just made a roux. Step one in a very tasty, very versatile bechamel sauce.
Add the warm milk to the roux gradually, stirring as you add. Once you add half of the milk you can add the second half much more quickly. Add a 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper. Keep stirring, bring the heat up to medium-low and then let simmer for 5-10 minutes until thickened. You want it to be spreadable but not too thick. It will bring a lot of moisture to the lasagna. Set aside.
Combine the cottage cheese, shredded mozzarella, egg, thyme, remaining half teaspoon of salt and more freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.
Now you’ve got all your components and it’s time to start layering!!
Spread 1/4 of the sauce in a 9″x 13″ pan. Layer three noodles. Add another 1/4 of the sauce, spread with a spatula. Add 1/2 of the mushrooms and 1/2 of the Parmesan. Layer another three noodles. Add all of the cottage cheese mixture followed by three more noodles. Spread another 1/4 of the sauce and the remaining mushrooms. Top with the leftover noodles (might be 2 or might be 3, either way will work fine). Spread remaining sauce over the noodles and top with remaining Parmesan.
Bake for 45 minutes until the top is browned and bubbly.