There are few things in this world quite like Italian home cooking. The aroma alone of an I
talian kitchen is enough to make you salivate on the spot. So naturally, the German and Irish heritage in me was curious on how to become even just a little bit Italian-ized with some pots and pans. I recruited a dear Roman friend of mine to teach me her family recipe for lasagna con funghi, aka lasagna with mushrooms. Below I’ve outlined the step-by-step process so you too can impress your family and friends with a vegetarian lasagna recipe, designed by proud Romans (and so they should be, it’s delish!).
**Important note to start with – we made the pasta sheets from scratch. If you prefer to keep it safe with store bought pasta, fear not! Just scroll down and begin by making your scrumptious sauce. If you have about 3 and a half hours (I’m not exaggerating, if you’re a beginner it does take this long, but is definitely worth the journey) and a pasta machine, I recommend the comical and brave adventure of making your pasta from scratch. This recipe is designed to feed 4.
- 100 grams of flour
- 100 grams of semolina
- two eggs
- extra virgin olive oil
Start by mixing the flour and semolina in a bowl. If we were classic Italian grandparents, or nonni, we would be mixing on a wooden table, but alas, we are not that fortunate. With your hands make a hole in the mixture to add the eggs. This is a top secret Italian tip to make the mixing easier. After the two eggs have been properly mixed into the flour with your hands, add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. Continue to mix until it reaches a sand color. Next, roll up your sleeves even further and get to work kneading the dough on a (preferably) wooden cutting board. After about a solid minute of continuous kneading, roll the dough into a ball, put the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
After your glass of well deserved vino, remove the dough from the fridge and cut a small piece, as shown in picture. Lay hand towels on the table for the pasta to rest after it is rolled and get that pasta pressing machine out. If you want this to be a successful pasta making event, start with level 1 on the pasta machine and slowly work your way to level 6, repeating each level roughly 3 times to flatten the dough as much as possible. Make sure you use your hands to support the dough once you get to level 4 and up. Learn from my mistake – the pasta is delicate and paper-thin (starting over at level 1 once it breaks in half is more than just a little sad). Once you finish level 6, lay the pasta on the towel and get crackin’ on pasta sheet number 2. Repeat these steps until the ball is finished and your table is covered in fresh pasta – hopefully in the shape of lasagna sheets.
To cook the mushrooms:
- about 600g of chopped mushrooms/two small packets of frozen mixed mushrooms (What kind of mushrooms? Your choice!)
- olive oil
- one clove of garlic
Cover a large saucepan in olive oil. Add the whole clove of garlic and tilt the pan so the oil and garlic is concentrated in one area, shown in picture. Legend says this is the best method to ensure the garlic flavor is fully absorbed in the oil. Wait for the oil to bubble and add both packets of mushrooms. Stir occasionally and remove the glove of garlic when the water from the mushrooms starts to disappear, shown in picture. It needs to be boiling. When done, set the pan aside and move on to making the sauce.
To make the besciamella (béchamel) sauce:
- 750 ml whole milk
- 75 grams butter
- 75 grams flour
- ground black pepper
You need two medium-large sized pans. Save the larger one for the butter and flour because you will have to add the milk to that eventually.
Begin by heating up the milk in the medium pan. While you wait for it to boil, soften the butter in a large sized non-stick pan and then gradually add the flour, stirring constantly. Once completely mixed, this step completes making the roux. Once the milk is boiling, add it to the roux and stir until smooth. Add a couple dashes of black pepper and nutmeg, still stirring. The amount is up to personal preference but aim for the sprinkling shown in the picture. Once your besciamella is smooth, you’re finished!
Boiling the pasta:
Fresh pasta: boil water with a little dash of olive oil in a large pot and add a few sheets at a time (we started with 3 then went to 4). The pasta only stays in the water for a couple seconds so they don’t cook all the way through. Once they rise to the top, remove them and lay them on the same towels as before. Repeat until finished.
Store bought: boil as instructed.
Creating the masterpiece:
- Deep pan
- Fresh parmesan
Measure 200 grams of pre-graded parmesan cheese. First, spread a layer of the besciamella to give the pasta a base, ensuring the bottom sheets won’t crisp up and burn. Cover the pan with a layer of pasta, then besciamella, then mushrooms, and finish by sprinkling graded parmesan. Repeat until the pan is full to the brim. Cook at about 480 degrees Farenheit (250C) for roughly 20 minutes. Use caution with your oven at home, keep an eye on your masterpiece and alter the temperature and time if necessary.
Now it’s time to eat! Sit back, relax, open another bottle of wine and bask in your Italian success. Buon appetito!
If you want to learn more about Italian food in Italy and Rome, why not come along on one of our food tours! We do warn you in advance, however, empty stomachs are necessary!