My favorite thing to cook for big groups is lasagna. Especially in the winter, lasagna is the perfect comfort food for cold nights. So, when a few people came over to watch football this weekend, I knew immediately what to put on the menu.
I have a few reliable recipes that I go to time and again (especially this one with butternut squash and mushrooms), but I wanted to try something new. I also wanted a seasonal recipe, which is inarguably difficult to find in the middle of January. Without popular fillings like summer squash, eggplant, and asparagus, I decided to go with mushrooms, onions, and spinach. I also left out the ricotta, which makes the lasagna less traditional but a bit heartier and more filling.
To really improve the flavor of my lasagna, I did two major things. The first was to cook my own tomato sauce, which is pretty easy (it only takes about 10 minutes) and tastes much better than the jarred stuff from the store. The second was to vary up the cheeses in my recipe, going beyond the typical mozzarella and Parmesan combination. I ultimately chose to include Gruyere and Pecorino, adding a sharp and salty flavor to the cheese layer.
A few notes: I’m a huge fan of no-boil noodles, but you have to be careful. Make sure to coat them thoroughly in sauce, otherwise they won’t soften up during baking. Also, feel free to swap in other veggies. In the future, I plan on trying variations with broccoli, cauliflower, and eggplant.
Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Recipe (inspired by Cooks Illustrated)
- olive oil
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 15 no boil lasagna noodles
- 1 pound mixed mushrooms (button, crimini, and portobello), sliced or chopped
- 1 pound frozen spinach (or fresh), thawed
- dried herbs (I used thyme and oregano)
- red pepper flakes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 8 oz mozzarella, grated
- 6 oz Gruyere, grated
- 2 oz Pecorino Romano, grated
- 3 oz Parmesan, grated
- Heat oven to 375 degrees and grease a deep 13 x 9 baking dish.
- For the tomato sauce: In a large skillet, heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add half the minced garlic (about two tbsp) and swirl around the pan for about a minute. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a steady simmer and let cook for 10 minutes, or until thickened. Add 1/2 cup water, red wine vinegar, and tomato paste. Simmer for a few minutes longer to meld flavors and then remove from heat.
- For the vegetables: Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and remaining garlic and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until mushrooms are fully cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated. If there is still liquid in your pan, strain mushrooms to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Place thawed spinach in a large colander and squeeze to remove excess liquid (Don’t skip this step! If you do, your lasagna will be too wet). Combine spinach and mushrooms in a large skillet or bowl. Set aside.
- For the cheese layer: In a small bowl, mix together the mozzarella and Gruyere.
- To assemble: Coat bottom of the 13 x 9 pan with a light layer of olive oil and 1/2 cup tomato sauce. Place three noodles on top, making sure that they do not touch the edges of the pan. Cover the noodles with 1 cup cooked vegetables, 1/2 cup sauce, and 3/4 grated cheese mixture, 1 tbsp Pecorino, and 1 tbsp Parmesan. Place three noodles on top, and continue repeating layers of vegetables, sauce, and cheese three more times. When you get to the top layer, lay down three more noodles, remaining sauce, remaining cheese, and 2 tbsp Parmesan.
- To bake: Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more, until top is browned and bubbly. Remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes.