Vegetable White Lasagna
I must admit this is not a quick dinner fix, but rather a festive dish that you can prepare with the help of your best friend or a family member for a beautiful, flavorful, satisfying and vegetarian holiday dinner. It is a fantastic option when you want to do something special and vegetarian.
Lasagna can be made with a limitless list of variations, most of them fruit of your own creativity. It’s one of those magic dishes that create warm conviviality around the table; it is rich, but you can decide just how copious to make it. This recipe is rich in vegetables: I opted for broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini as they create a nice flavor balance, but you can substitute any of them, or add more. It is also rich in diary, as tradition dictates, but you could go vegan using coconut milk for the bechamel and homemade cashew mozzarella. And an egg-free pasta dough.
By the way, lasagne are in use since the times of the Romans, who would alternate the dough with meat. The first written recipe is from the 16th century, proposing layers of wheat dough alternated with cheese and spices, as tomato sauce was not yet in use. Tomatoes were later imported in Europe from the Americas.
In Italian, we speak of lasagne, plural, because it indicates the many layers of dough stripes, each of them called lasagna.
I can’t tell how many happy memories were made around a dish of lasagne, prepared with love for family reunions and special occasions. The versatility of this dish is unique, also because it must be assembled and preferably cooked the day before and just reheated before consuming.
For 8 servings
500 gr pasta flour (or all-purpose flour if you cannot find it)
5 large eggs
1-2 tablespoons EV Olive Oil
500 grams shiitake mushrooms, some rehydrated porcini mushrooms
500 broccoli florets
1/3 cup raisins
500 grams Italian zucchini
1 large yellow onion
5-6 garlic gloves
Parsley, sage, basil
Salt & Pepper
100 gr all-purpose flour
100 gr EV Olive Oil
1 liter whole milk
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
CHEESE FOR GARNISH
250 gr mozzarella log, chopped finely
100 gr fontina cheese, chopped finely
100 gr grated parmigiano
Some shaved parmigiano for decoration
Some fresh herbs and pomegranate arils for decoration
MAKE THE DOUGH
1. Put all the flour minus ¾ of a cup, the eggs, the EVOO in the bowl of the standing mixer, and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together.
2. Switch with the hook attachment, start mixing again, sprinkling the rest of the flour one teaspoon at the time around the bowl so that the dough detaches itself more easily from the walls and forms a ball.
3. After that keep working the dough for 5-6 more minutes. Remove, readjust the ball by hand, divide in 4, cover each piece in plastic film, refrigerate and let it rest for 1 hour.
COOK THE VEGETABLES
4. Steam the broccoli in the microwave, tightly covered in plastic film, for 5-6 minutes. Sauté in a nonstick pan with garlic, salt and pepper, until completely seared. Add the raisins. Mix. Set aside.
5. sauté the washed and sliced mushrooms in a non-stick pan with olive oil and garlic, sage, salt and pepper, until nicely browned. Do not overcrowd the pan, do a couple of different batches. Set aside.
6. Add the rehydrated and chopped Porcini mushrooms to the last batch.
7. Squeeze the cooked garlic in the mushroom mix.
8. Slice and sauté the onions until brown with some EVOO. Set aside.
9. Slice, season with EVOO, salt and pepper; cook in a preheated 380F oven on parchment paper for 8-10 minutes. Sauté quickly in batches to add extra flavor. Add the cut basil. Mix gently with the onions.
MAKE THE BECHAMEL
10. Put the Olive Oil and the flour in a nonstick pot, mix on low flame until it becomes a paste. Add little by little the previously warmed up milk, stirring continuously until absorbed. Continue until you use all the milk. Keep on stirring, until when it starts to boil, and it thickens almost to a custard. Remove from the stove, adjust with salt and pepper and nutmeg, set aside, but keep stirring from time to time to avoid the film on the surface.
ROLL THE DOUGH
11. Insert the pasta roller attachment to the stand mixer or use a pasta rolling machine.
12. Flatten a piece of dough with your fingers on a floured surface, insert in the pasta roller, largest hole – on mine it’s setting number 1; do it at least three times with the same setting, each time folding the dough on itself until you have a regular size. Then proceed to the next setting, i.e. number 2, feed again the dough in the pasta roller, and so on until you have a thin pasta sheet. In my pasta roller I go to number 6.
13. Rest the sheets on a floured surface, preferably wood or marble, until they become a little drier and feel like a Pergamene.
14. In the meantime, put a very large pan of salted water to boil, or if you have a hotel pan or a stainless-steel roaster it is even better.
15. Cut the long sheet of dough to size for the ovenproof dish that you are going to use.
16. Boil each sheet for 5-6 minutes, do not overcrowd, maximum 2 at the time.
17. Remove from water and gently put on an oiled baking sheet so that they do not stick.
18. You will need enough to make 4 layers of dough for each pan you are using.
ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNE
19. Oil the ovenproof rectangular dish(es) that you are going to use.
20. Put a couple of tablespoons of bechamel sauce on the bottom, spread it out. Lay the first 2 sheets of cooked pasta superposing slightly in the middle. If your dish is rather small, I suggest cutting lengthwise the sheets so that you do not have too thick a layer in the middle.
21. Spread the broccoli, slicing a bit if necessary. Sprinkle the cheeses, add a few teaspoons of bechamel in a regular pattern, so that each final portion will have some.
22. Put the second layer of dough, covering completely the previous one, pushing gently so to spread evenly the filling beneath.
23. Add the mushrooms, the cheeses, the bechamel, and again the dough sheets.
24. Add the zucchini and onions mix, the cheeses, the bechamel, and again the dough sheets.
25.Spread the leftover bechamel on the top layer, covering completely. Cover loosely with aluminum foil, making sure it does not touch the food.
26. Cook in a preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until when the cheese inside is melted and bubbling.
27. Remove and let it cool down 15 minutes or so before serving. Sprinkle with shaved parmigiano cheese
A Few Notes:
- If you prepare ahead: on the day of the dinner remove the Lasagne from the refrigerator at least 2 hours before putting in the oven, it takes a long time to come to room temperature. Cook again for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350F, until when the center is hot and bubbling.
- If you need a shortcut, you can buy the ready-made, dry and precooked egg dough sheet – the flat ones, not the ribbon ones. The results are much better if you boil the sheets before assembling, even if it says on the package that it is not necessary to do so.
- You can choose the vegetables that you prefer.
- If you have pasta leftover it can be cut to make tagliatelle or maltagliati.
- If you do not have enough bechamel or if you feel that the dough gets to dry/burnt during the cooking process, sprinkle some milk or cream on the corners.
Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.