Lasagne con Spinaci e Funghi

This recipe is from a sweet little cookbook that I’ve had for ages, The Best of Italy: A Cookbook, ed. Evie Righter. It looks like a fluffy little coffee table book, but is packed with really good recipes ranging from Antipasti, First and Second Courses, Vegetables and Pizzas to Desserts.

I made lasagne for the first time ever last week. I bought a beautiful porcelain baking dish several years ago with the intention of one day having a big dinner party featuring lasagne as one of the main courses. Last Saturday was the day!

Even thought the recipe may look daunting in length, its various components – the pasta, filling and sauces – if taken one-by-one, are easy to make. Furthermore, it can be assembled a day in advance and cooked the next day.

Lasagne con Spinaci e Funghi

  • 2 lbs/1 kg spinach, trimmed and washed
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb/500 gm mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ cup minced fresh basil leaves
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh basil leaves or parsley
  • 1 recipe Salsa Marinara (Marinara Sauce)
  • 1 recipe Salsa Balsamella (White Sauce)
  • ½ lb/250 gm dried lasagne noodles or ¾ lb/375 gm fresh lasagne noodles
  • 1 lb/500 gm mozzarella, grated
  • 1 ½ cups/165 gm freshly grated Parmesan
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

In a large covered saucepan over medium heat, cook the spinach in just the water remaining on its leaves, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Drain, refresh under cold water, and squeeze dry. Coarsely chop the spinach.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the onions in 3 tablespoons of the oil, stirring occasionally for 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden. Add the mushrooms, oregano, basil, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the mushrooms are firm and the liquid has evaporated. Add the spinach and garlic and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Make both the Marinara and the Balsamella sauce.

Salsa Marinara

This sauce has a pure, clean flavour and is good on any number of pastas, as a pizza sauce or combined with meatballs.

  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs/1 kg ripe tomatoes, cored & cut into 1-inch pieces, or 2 x 28 oz/4 x 400 gm tins of peeled, whole tomatoes, drained
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic in the oil, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar and salt and pepper, and simmer, covered for 25 minutes.

Purée the mixture through the fine disc of a food mill into a saucepan. Simmer for a further 15 minutes. Correct seasoning.

Salsa Balsamella

A basic white sauce, similiar to Béchamel Sauce.

  • 2 ½ cups/600 ml milk
  • 4 tbsp/60 gm butter
  • 1/4 cup/60 gr plain flour
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Scald the milk in a small saucepan. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes, being careful not to let it brown. Add the hot milk in a stream, whisking, and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste.

Vegetable filling

Combine the balsamella sauce, spinach mixture and the fresh parsley or basil in a large bowl.

To assemble

Cook the lasagne noodles according to the instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl of cold water to which 1 tablespoon of oil has been added (to prevent the noodles from sticking together).

I used fresh Sainbury’s label lasagne noodles. Very simple. They come sheafed with sheets of paper and to cook, simply add boiling water, let sit for 5 minutes and drain off the water. The paper inserts keep it from sticking.

Arrange the cast of characters . . . .

To assemble the lasagne, coat the bottom of an oiled 13-by 10-by 2-inch shallow baking dish with 1 cup of the marinara sauce. Cover with one-third of the pasta, arranging it in a layer over the sauce. Smooth one-third of the vegetable filling over the pasta and sprinkle with one-third of the mozzarella and Parmesan.

Layer half the remaining pasta over the cheese, and top with half the remaining vegetable filling and cheese. Arrange the final layer of pasta and filling and spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the filling. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

At this point the lasagne can be refrigerated overnight, or baked at 400° F/200° C for 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling. Let the lasagne rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Buon appetito!

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