Vegetarian shiitake mushroom lasagna
Mushrooms are such a versatile ingredient! They are full of umami flavor with a resistant texture. Here was my thought process when developing the lasagna dish:
Choice #1: Which types of mushrooms to use
I went for 2 different ones. First, shiitake mushrooms because they add tons of flavor. However, they do not have a great texture and become too soft for my taste when cooked. Dried porcini mushroom would have been a great option, as they also pack flavor. For perfect texture: I added button mushrooms as well, which do hold their shape well, but lack taste. This mix was a match made in mushroom heaven.
Choice #2: Supporting flavors to the mushrooms: cheese and herbs
As shiitake mushrooms have a long depth of flavor, I wanted a herb designed to bring freshness and acidity. Basil is an option but parsley or chives would have also worked. If you rather prefer to reinforce the depth of flavor earthy herbs such as rosemary or sage are the way to go.
Regarding the cheese, I went both for mozzarella for freshness and texture and parmesan in the sauce for added umami taste.
Choice #3: The techniques for the sauce and pasta
The classic sauce in lasagna is bechamel. However, I find it is too a bit too heavy for my taste. As a result, I simply went with ready made mushroom stock and milk, thickened by cornstarch.
Regarding the lasagna pasta itself, I am a big fan of the easiness of no-precook lasagna pasta sheets. They will cook and soften inside the lasagna. You might want to keep your sauces a little runnier then you normally would, as the dry lasagna sheets soak up a bit more liquid then the cooked ones. The sauce should be evenly spread with the entire pasta sheet for them to fully hydrate.
Vegetarian shiitake mushroom lasagna
Change for a vegetarian lasagna experience with shiitake and button mushrooms. Perfectly balanced with raclette cheese and tarragon, this dish offers the ultimate blend of taste and texture.
- 400 grams or 15 ounces of button mushrooms
- 100 grams or 4 ounces of fresh Shiitake mushrooms. Dried porcini mushrooms work also very well, in this case 50 grams or 2 onces are enough. Do not forget to rehydrate dry mushroom in warm water for 15min before cooking them.
- 3 gloves of garlic
- a bunch of basil
- 1 tablespoons of butter
- 1L or 5 cups of whole milk
- A cube of mushroom stock
- 5 tablespoons of cornstarch
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 200 grams of mozzarella
- 200 grams of parmesan
- no precook lasagna pasta sheets (I used Rummo)
1. Cook the mushrooms
• Clean the mushrooms in cold water to remove residual soil. Chop them roughly to preserve some of their texture and chewiness.
• In a large sauté pan, add mushrooms, salt, and a quarter cup or so of water over high heat until they have collapsed, and water has evaporated (about 10min). Cooking them in water first will reduce the amount of fat needed as well as extract their sugars to facilitate browning.
• Brown the mushrooms with a tablespoon of butter and the chopped garlic and basil. Cook until slightly browned. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200°C or 390°F.
2. Prepare the Mushroom Sauce
• Mix the cornstarch with half a cup of cold water until dissolved.
• In a pot, add the cornstarch water to the milk and the cubed mushroom stock. Stir frequently until boiling to avoid the sauce from sticking and burning. As soon as the milk starts to boil, the cornstarch will thicken. Add 150 grams of parmesan to the cooked sauce.
• Your sauce should be creamy but easy to pour. Add more milk or cornstarch water to adjust the consistency. Trust yourself to have the freedom to adjust to get the right consistency.
• Taste for final seasoning with salt/pepper to taste. Finally, add a squeeze of lemon juice to balance the rich sauce with some acidity.
3. Assemble the lasagna
• Spread a thin layer of sauce to the entire bottom of an oven-proof dish (rectangular, about 36x26cm or 14x10inch). Then, arrange a first layer of no-precook dry lasagna sheets (you can break them if their shape does not fit exactly your dish).
• Spread 1/3 of your remaining sauce to cover all your pasta sheets. Top evenly with half your mushrooms and half your sliced mozzarella cheese. Cover with a layer of pasta sheets and repeat again with the sauce, mushrooms, and cheese.
• Finish with one final layer of dry pasta sheets, a thin layer of sauce, and 50 grams of parmesan cheese. Spread evenly but finely, this will allow the top of your lasagna to stay crunchy and not fully rehydrate.
4. Cook the lasagna
• Put in the oven at 200°C or 390°F for about 20mins (or follow your dry pasta package instructions).
• If the top of your lasagna becomes too dark, cover with aluminum foil to slow down the browning.