I’ve been wanting to make a lasagna using homemade pasta sheets for a while now. Out of the blue I had the idea of replacing the traditional tomato meat sauce with a chunky mushroom sauce. Thus a culinary adventure was born!
This gave me and Stephanie a mission at the farmer’s market yesterday—we needed mushrooms, and lots of them. We picked up about a pound of portobellos, a good pound of brown mushrooms, and half a pound of shittakes. I sliced the portobellos and shittakes and started them sauteeing in a healthy bit of butter and olive oil. I held off on the brown mushrooms because my 3.5qt saute pan was already overflowing.
I rinsed and quartered the brown mushrooms and then threw them in, keeping everything lubricated with olive oil, and seasoning the “ragout” with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and some finely ground herbes de provence we’d “imported” from France. From that point on I kept things moist with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon now and then—I think I used about a half bottle by the end. Just before we put together the lasagna, I finished the sauce with about a pint of cream.
Tony Bull came over (he’d missed the ravioli party, so this was the next best thing) and helped us get the pasta made. Stephanie had already whipped up a batch of dough, and so they began making lasagna sheets. They’d roll out one quarter of the dough at a time, which was enough for one layer of pasta when cut in half. Meanwhile I whipped together some of the best ricotta I’ve ever seen (from Cowgirl Creamery) with two eggs, grated parmesan and salt, pepper, and herbes de provence.
Then we began the assembly. First a little bit of sauce and a splash of cream to give the bottom layer of pasta some moisture. This we followed with fresh pasta sheets, a layer of the ricotta mixture, the mushroom cream sauce, and shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. And repeat. We filled the pan and went through all our ingredients after three layers.
How did it turn out? I don’t even think there are words. But the mouth feel of the homemade pasta sheets was just stunning. At the time, I could only compare it to ham, in terms of texture. It wasn’t noodley or rubbery, but it had this heartiness unlike any lasagna I’ve ever had. And the edges were perfectly done. And every bite held together. And the cheese was a perfect complement to the mushrooms. I’ve got to go heat up the leftovers!