This lasagne contains one of two epic ragù recipes in “Flavor“—the other is the ultimate roasting-pan ragù that gives any meat ragù a terrifically good run for its money.
This particular ragù pays homage to penne all’Aconese, the first dish that co-author Ixta Belfrage fell madly in love with. It’s served at Ristorante Pizzeria Acone, a community-run restaurant in the Tuscan village of Acone, perched at the top of the mountain on which she spent her formative childhood years. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but the complex, earthy and deeply umami flavor of dried porcini mushrooms is impossible to miss. This is a meatless take on that mythical sauce.
The ragù can easily be made vegan if you lose the cream. It can also be made ahead and refrigerated, ready to be served with pasta or polenta, saving yourself the trouble of constructing the lasagne if you’re short on time.
Pull back on the black pepper and lose the chile for a child-friendly version. If you want to get ahead, the lasagne can be assembled, refrigerated and then baked the next day (once it has come back up to room temperature).
Spicy Mushroom Lasagne
- 1 pound 10 ounces/750g brown button mushrooms, halved
- 1 pound 2 ounces/500g oyster mushrooms
- 9 tablespoons/135ml olive oil
- Table salt
- 2¼ ounces/60g dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 ounce/30g dried wild mushrooms
- 2 dried red chiles, roughly chopped (seeded for less heat)
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons/500ml hot vegetable stock
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and quartered (3¼ ounces/90g)
- 2–3 plum tomatoes, quartered (7 ounces/200g)
- ⅓ cup/75g tomato paste
- Black pepper
- 3⅓ cups/800ml water
- 9 tablespoons/135ml heavy cream
- 2¼ ounces/60g pecorino, finely grated
- 2¼ ounces/60g Parmesan, finely grated
- ¼ cup/5g basil leaves, finely chopped
- ½ cup/10g parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus 1 teaspoon
- 9 ounces/250g dried lasagne sheets (about 14 sheets)
- Preheat the oven to 450°F/220°C fan. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Put the button mushrooms and oyster mushrooms into the bowl of a food processor, in three or four batches, and pulse each batch until finely chopped (or finely chop everything by hand). Toss the chopped mushrooms in a large bowl with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt and spread out on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes near the top of the oven, stirring three times throughout, until the mushrooms are golden brown; they will have reduced in volume significantly. Set aside. Decrease the oven temperature to 425°F/200°C fan.
- Meanwhile, combine all the dried mushrooms, the chiles and hot stock in a large bowl and set aside to soak for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into another bowl, squeezing as much liquid from the mushrooms as possible to get just under 1½ cups/340ml—if you have any less, top up with water. Very roughly chop the rehydrated mushrooms (you want some chunks) and finely chop the chiles. Set the stock and mushrooms aside separately.
- Put the onion, garlic and carrot into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped (or finely chop everything by hand). Heat ¼ cup/60ml olive oil in a large sauté pan or pot on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion mixture and fry for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Pulse the tomatoes in the food processor until finely chopped (or finely chop by hand), then add to the pan along with the tomato paste, 1½ teaspoons salt, and 1¾ teaspoons pepper. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and chiles and the roasted mushrooms and cook for 9 minutes. Resist the urge to stir; you want the mushrooms to be slightly crisp and browned on the bottom. Stir in the water and reserved stock and, once simmering, decrease the heat to medium and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you get the consistency of a ragù. Stir in 7 tablespoons/105ml of the cream and simmer for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Combine both cheeses, the basil and ½ cup/10g parsley in a small bowl. Spread ⅕ of the sauce in the bottom of a round 12-inch/30cm baking dish (or a 9×13-inch/23x33cm rectangular dish), then top with a fifth of the cheese mixture, followed by a layer of lasagne sheets, broken to fit where necessary. Repeat these layers three more times in that order, and finish with a final layer of sauce and cheese; that’s five layers of sauce, five layers of cheese and four layers of pasta.
- Drizzle with 1 tablespoon cream and 1 tablespoon olive oil, then cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the temperature to 450°F/220°C fan and bake for another 12 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through. Turn the oven to the broil setting and broil for a final 2 minutes, until the edges are brown and crisp. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes or so, then drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon cream and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with the 1 teaspoon parsley and finish with a good grind of pepper. Serve at once.