We were so busy eating the big, beautiful square cuts of it the night it was made that I was forced to put photography aside for an evening for the sake of pure enjoyment. I had to take a picture the next day, when the sloppy leftovers were only testament to the fun we'd had digging in.
I am also not going to pretend that this lasagna is quick to make, although it is definitely easy. If you have a couple of hours and someone in mind to make it for, then it's the perfect meal to make someone feel pretty darn special. The object of this white lasagna's affection was my friend M, who was turning 26. Lasagna is her favorite meal. There are few things that M can make (this is said with utmost love), and lasagna is one of them. So, I did want to cook her her favorite meal, but I didn't want to make her a dish that she could make for herself. Hence, this wonderfully unpredictable silky, cheesy white lasagna.
I layered a robust bechamel with sauteed carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms, but this dish is the perfect canvas for an array of favorite add-ins, such as browned sausage or ground beef. One thing is for certain, when you take your first bite of this lasagna, all the time spent stirring that bechamel will fade fast into the background, replaced by big, happy smiles.
Sliced carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms
7 T. butter, divided
1/2 cup diced white onion
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup all purpose flour
|3 1/2 cups 2% milk|
|2 bay leaves|
|3/4 t. ground nutmeg|
|1/2 t. salt|
|1/4 t. ground black pepper|
|1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese|
1 T. butter for the pan
3/4 lb. part-skim mozzarella, grated
1 package Barilla No-Boil Noodles (Barilla tastes like fresh pasta)
4 T. grated parmesan
In a medium-large saucepan heat 2 T. butter over medium heat until it foams. Add in the vegetables (or meat if using) and cook until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the vegetables to a dish. Add 5 T. butter and heat until foaming, then add the onions and cook 4-6 minutes, stirring often, until clear in color. Add in the garlic and stir, 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1.5 minutes. Do not allow the flour to brown, but cook it just long enough for the raw flour flavor to cook out. Gradually whisk in the milk, bring to a boil over medium heat, and whisk in the bay leaves, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and whisk occasionally, about 15 minutes, or until the bechamel is reduced enough to stick to the back of a spoon. Discard bay leaves, stir in parmesan, and cover.
Preheat oven to 425. In a broiler-safe 9x13 pan, coat with butter, then pour 1/2 cup bechamel, then layer 4 lasagna noodles across the pan, slightly overlapping and not touching the sides of the pan (they will expand to meet the sides of the pan). Stir the sauteed vegetables into the remaining bechamel. Spread another layer (about 1/4 of the remaining) of vegetable mixture on top of noodles, then top with 1/4 of the mozzarella. Layer lasagna noodles now again, in the opposite direction as the layer before it. Repeat this process with two more layers of noodles, ending with the remaining bechamel covering the top noodles, the rest of the mozzarella, and 4 T. parmesan.
Cover tightly with tin foil and bake until bubbling, 20 minutes. Covering it is essential to retaining the moisture and avoiding dry lasagna. Remove foil and move the rack to 6 inches from the broiler. Broil 4 minutes or until the top cheese has browned spots over the top. Cool 10 minutes, then cut and serve.