Whenever I take a trip, I attempt to keep a journal. I want to remember all the little details, the activities, and, most importantly, what I ate.
Unfortunately, I started this habit after one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. I’m talking about my first trip to Italy. Italy with wide eyes, with my family, half my lifetime ago. We all stayed with my dad’s aunt and uncles and most of our time sitting at the kitchen table, (lots of language-barrier smiling, not too much talking) eating. We’d have caffè latte in the mornings and butter cookies from a tin. We thought it was hilarious how my uncle would crunch up handfuls of cookies and float them in his latte, like how we eat cereal with milk. There would be minestra for lunch. Every dinner would end with my aunt bringing out apples and big wedges of cheese and teaching my little brother to use the moka pot.
I just wish I remember what every dinner was. I remember them all being good and I have a foggy memory of a crepe lasagna that was absolutely delicious. Of course, I have no recollection of what was in it, just that it was wonderful and I could have kept eating it forever.
So that’s what I was thinking about as I assembled this lasagna, wondering what my aunt had put in hers and hoping mine would measure up.
Mine is a very autumnal lasagna. It’s made with a stack of nutty, whole wheat crepes, earthy mushroom duxelles, sweet butternut squash, béchamel, and plenty of melted cheese. As it bakes, the layers of flavor meld together into something that is pure comfort. Is it a replica of what I previously ate? No, but it’s a delicious way to bring past food memories into the present. I think you’re going to like it, too.
A decent amount of work goes into making homemade lasagna, but as long as you can handle multi-tasking, it won’t consume your entire day.
Start by mixing up your crepe batter. Let it rest while you get going on your filling components.
Cut a butternut squash in half and get it into the oven to roast.
While the squash is roasting, clean a bunch of mushrooms. Matt swears I keep him around solely to clean mushrooms, but I did all of these by myself. Ha!
Quarter the mushrooms, pop them in a food processor with a shallot, and pulse until finely chopped. We’re making mushroom duxelles. If you don’t wait tables for a living and aren’t familiar with the term, just know it’s a fancy way of saying super-tasty mushroom spread. Seriously, I could put it on anything and everything.
Saute the mushroom and shallot mixture in butter until the liquid from the mushrooms boils off and you are left with a thick and fragrant mushroom paste. Stir in a splash of dry Marsala and try not to eat it all right off the spoon.
Next up, béchamel. We’ll use a simple white sauce to bind all the layers and flavors together. Make a roux with butter and flour then whisk in hot milk until it’s thick and creamy. We’re getting there.
Time to make the crepes. Set up a work station on your stove and start flipping crepes. Don’t worry–the first couple never turn out. I lost one to each pan and I still had plenty for the lasagna.
Check the squash. Tender? Good. Scoop out the flesh, puree, and season. Grate some cheese and you’re ready to put it all together.
Butter a springform pan and get all your separate components together.
Start building your lasagna. Line the bottom of the pan with crepes, then layer on béchamel, mushroom duxelles, and cheese. Cover with another crepe layer and spread with squash puree, sprinkle with cheese. Repeat until you’ve used up all your ingredients.
Phew…the hard part is over. Put that lasagna in the oven and take it easy while it bakes. Pour yourself a glass of wine and write about this crepe lasagna in your food journal. You’re going to want to remember it.
- 1 c. All-Purpose Flour
- 1 c. Whole Wheat Flour
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 1/4 c. Butter, melted
- 1 1/2 c. Milk
- 3/4-1 c. Sparkling Water
- Vegetable Oil (for the pan)
- 1 smallish (1 1/2-2#) Butternut Squash, cut in half, seeds removed
- Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper
- 1# Assorted Mushrooms (I used about 2/3 Crimini, 1/3 Shiitake), stems trims, quartered
- a few Dried Porcini Mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water and drained
- 1 large Shallot, diced
- 2 Tbsp. Butter
- 2 Tbsp. Dry Marsala
- 2 Tbsp. Butter
- 2 Tbsp. Flour
- 2 c. Whole Milk
- 1 Dried Bay Leaf
- freshly grated Nutmeg
- 8 oz. Aged Provolone or Fontina Cheese, grated
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Make the crepe batter. Mix together the crepe ingredients until smooth. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, rub the flesh of the squash with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast until tender about 45 minutes. Allow to cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, and, using a food processor, puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- While the squash is roasting, make the mushroom duxelles. Place the quartered fresh mushrooms, the porcini, and the shallot in a food processor and pulse until the mushrooms are finely minced. Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in a wide sauté pan. Add the mushroom mixture and sauté until the pan is quite dry, 10-15 minutes. Season with salt, add the Marsala, and continue to sauté until the pan is dry again, another 10 minutes or so. Taste. Season with black pepper and additional salt, as needed.
- While the mushrooms are cooking, make the béchamel. See, it's all about multi-tasking! Heat the milk and bay leaf in a small saucepan to almost a boil. In a medium saucepan, make a roux with the butter and flour. Melt the butter over medium-high heat and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture turns a light golden and it loses its raw flour taste. Slowly pour the hot milk into the pan, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and a few gratings of nutmeg. Transfer to a small bowl and cover the top with plastic until you're ready to use it so the sauce won't develop a film on top.
- Next, make the crepes. Heat a crepe pan (or any non-stick frying pan) over medium-high heat. Using a paper towel, apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the pan. Pour about ⅓ c. of the batter into the pan and quickly swirl it around until it coats the bottom of the pan. If your batter seems too thick to accomplish this, thin it out with more milk. Cook until the crepe releases from the bottom of the pan, about 1 minute. Flip and cook on the other side for 30 seconds or until golden. Transfer to a plate and repeat until you are out of batter.
- Time to assemble the lasagna! Butter a spring-form pan. Create a base with a crepe. My crepes were not quite large enough to make a full layer, so I pieced each layer together with 1 full crepe and pieces of another. It didn't make any difference in how the end product looked or tasted. Spread the crepe with about 1/3 of the béchamel sauce followed by 1/3 of the mushrooms. Sprinkle with a little cheese, then top with another layer of crepes. Spread the crepe with about 1/2 of the squash puree, sprinkle with cheese, and top with another crepe. Repeat. End with a béchamel and mushroom layer topped with plenty of cheese. Cover the lasagna loosely with foil with a few holes in the top to let the steam escape. Make sure the foil does not touch the cheese or it will pull it all off when you remove it. Place the spring-form pan on a baking sheet and bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the edges start to crisp. Allow to cool for 15 minutes (it will be much easier to cut) before serving.