Lasagne with Porcini, Spinach, Sausage & Montasio

Paula Lambert from the Mozzarella Company shares the recipe for a lasagne that your whole family will love.

Lasagne with Porcini, Spinach, Sausage and Montasio

This lasagna dish is typical of northern Italy…it has no tomato sauce, just spinach, mushrooms, sausage, a wonderfully rich béchamel sauce, and Montasio cheese.

Note In Italian lasagna is singular so it means just one lasagna noodle. Lasagne is plural so a dish with multiple layers of lasagne noodles is called lasagne.

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, approximately 1 ounce
2 cups (8 ounces) sliced fresh cremini mushrooms
3 Tbsp butter 
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ pound pancetta or prosciutto, thinly sliced
½ pound Italian sausage
10 ounces fresh spinach leaves, well washed and dried
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon herbs of Provence

Béchamel Sauce:
4½ tablespoons butter
4½ tablespoons flour
3 cups milk, heated
Dash nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper

8 ounces dried lasagna pasta sheets
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 tablespoon butter
1½ cups (6 ounces) grated Montasio or another firm cheese such as Asiago or Swiss or Parmigiano Reggiano

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, cover them with hot water, swish them around with your hands, and then carefully lift them out of the water. Discard the rinse water, return the mushrooms to the bowl and cover them with 1 cup of very hot water. Set aside to steep in the water for 30 minutes to one hour, while preparing the lasagne.

Sauté the fresh mushrooms in the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, until barely limp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside.

Cut the pancetta into ¼-inch wide strips and place it in a large skillet. Cook over low heat, breaking the pancetta pieces apart with a spoon. Stir and sauté for a few minutes until the fat begins to render out.  Remove the sausage from its casing, crumble it into the skillet, and sauté, breaking it apart with a spoon, until browned.  Drain off and discard the excess fat.  Add 1/4 of the spinach leaves, stir and turn until they begin to wilt, then add 1/4 more of the spinach leaves.  Cover the skillet briefly and then stir and turn the spinach leaves again.  Add the remaining 2 quarters of the spinach in the same manner.  Turn off the heat and leave the spinach leaves in the covered pan until all are wilted.  Then remove the lid.  Sprinkle with salt and the herbs of Provence over the spinach, stir and set aside.

For the Béchamel Sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and then stir in the flour.  Cook the roux for about one minute over low heat.  Whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk and stir to combine.  Add the remaining milk, whisking constantly, and cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens.  Allow the sauce to simmer for several minutes longer, stirring constantly.  Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cover and set aside.

Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large stockpot over high heat.  Add salt. Then add the lasagna noodles one by one stirring to keep them from sticking together, reduce the heat to medium and cook, according to package directions, until they are al dente, about 5 minutes.  Pour the pasta with its water into a colander and then quickly dump the pasta into a bowl filled with cold icy water to cool the pasta. Add the olive oil. Take care to separate the sheets of pasta so that they do not stick together. Remove the pasta from the bowl and spread it out on sheets of plastic wrap that have been placed on top of a dishtowel to absorb the dripping water.  Place plastic wrap between the layers of pasta if you stack it.

Pour the rehydrated porcini mushrooms in a sieve, saving their liquid in a bowl beneath. Chop the mushrooms and combine them in the skillet them with the fresh mushrooms that were sautéed. Set them aside.  Strain the mushroom water through a sieve, or several thicknesses of cheesecloth, into a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and boil the mushroom water to reduce to half its volume. Pour the reduced mushroom juice over the sausage and spinach mixture, then place the skillet over low heat and simmer for few minutes, stirring as necessary, until most of the mushroom liquid is absorbed.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Butter an 8-inch x 13-inches x 2 1/2-inches baking dish or two 8-inch x 8-inch casserole dishes.  Grease the baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. 

Ladle a couple of spoonfuls of béchamel sauce on the bottom of the baking dish and spread it out with the spoon.  Place a solid layer of lasagna sheets first, then spread 1/3 of the sausage and spinach mixture on top of the noodles, followed by 1/3 of the mushrooms, 1/4 of the béchamel sauce and 1/4 of the cheese.  Repeat the layering process two more times until all the ingredients and pan juices are used, ending up with béchamel sauce covered with Montasio cheese on top.

Bake the Lasagne uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the lasagna is bubbly and nicely browned on top.  

Remove from the oven and allow the Lasagne to stand a room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting it into squares approximately 3 inches by 3 inches.  Serve immediately.

Serves 8