I love, love, love leeks! In fact, I like to keep packets of chopped leeks sauteed in butter in my freezer for times when a dish needs a leek-lift. For this vegetarian lasagna, I took inspiration from three stellar cooks: Australia's Stephanie Alexander, whose comprehensive volume "The Cook's Companion" has a wonderful recipe for leek and cream stew; Ina Garten, whose mushroom lasagna put that idea in my head; and Sarah Leah Chase whose "Cold Weather Cooking" has a lasagna that calls for a lovely bechamel made with chicken broth that I adapted to be meat-free. To put the focus on the mushrooms and leeks, I wanted this to be a white lasagna -- no tomato sauce to muddy those delicate flavors. It's always a hit, even with meat-eaters, and I always get requests for my recipe. —cookbookchick
one large pan
leeks, white and pale green parts only
clove garlic, finely chopped
unsalted butter (for the leek stew)
lemon, juice only
white pepper, freshly ground
mushrooms, mixed varieties such as portobella, shiitake, and whatever else you can find at the market
unsalted butter (divided, for the mushrooms and the béchamel), plus more, as needed
light cream or half-and-half
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
nutmeg, freshly grated
large eggs, lightly beaten
mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced
boxes no-boil lasagna noodles (or use regular lasagna noodles, pre-cooked in a pot of boiling salted water)
For the leek and cream stew:
Wash the leeks carefully in cool water to remove any grit, then chop them finely. Saute the leeks and chopped garlic in butter over low heat for about 10 minutes until the leeks are softened and tender. Add the cup of cream and simmer until cream has bubbled up and started to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
For the mushrooms:
Rinse mushrooms. If using portobellas, separate the stems from the caps and discard the stems. Slice the mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan. When the butter starts to sizzle, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. If they become too dry, add a little more butter. Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and set all the mushrooms aside. (Cooking half the mushrooms at a time keeps them from stewing instead of sautéing.)
For the bechamel:
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute. Gradually whisk in the light cream; cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, gradually stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into the beaten eggs so as to warm the eggs slowly and prevent them from scrambling, then stir the egg mixture into the remaining sauce. Cook a couple of minutes longer, stirring constantly, then remove from heat.
Building the lasagna:
Put a little bechamel in the bottom of a large baking or lasagna pan, then layer with noodles, leek stew, mushrooms, mozarella, bechamel sauce, and start again with more noodles. Continue until you've used up ingredients, top with noodles, bechamel and a little grated Parmesan. (Or layer in whatever order strikes your fancy, I don't think it matters much!)
Bake at 350 for about 1 hour, until hot, bubbly and lightly browned. You can also refrigerate the lasagna a few hours ahead until you are ready to bake it.
***Note: You could skip making the leek stew, and simply saute the leeks and garlic in the butter you are going to use to make the bechamel. You can also use black pepper instead of white in the bechamel, if you don't mind the specks showing.
I am retired from CBS News, having worked in both NYC and Washington DC, my native town. I'm married, mother of three, grandmother of two. I've been a passionate cook since I was a child, and have collected recipes since then. I am shamelessly addicted to cookbooks -- hence my moniker -- but I figure it's not only less harmful than other addictions, but also produces a better outcome for those around me. My family call me "the food lady," so I guess they agree!