Un Bacio in Cucina

a photographic exploration of Italian food, culture & wine

Tag: Italian food

Mushroom Lasagne

Mushroom Lasagne

Two summers ago I spent a month in Tuscany, Italy photographing several wineries and a bed and breakfast outside of Siena. It was September and I remember waking up and feeling the subtle transition from the summer heat and humidity to a crispy coolness in the air, a sign that Fall was on it’s way.  I also remember the sacks of porcini mushrooms the family that I stayed with used to bring home and the aroma that filled the kitchen as they prepared delicious meals using those fresh mushrooms. I was more than grateful to be invited to the dinner table and learn a few tricks in the kitchen. Recently, I’ve been feeling that same crispy, cool air as the weather is transitioning in Maine and New Hampshire as I daydream of that golden time in Italy.
I get inspired this time of year to make something with fresh mushrooms just so I can relive that experience I had.  A fresh mushroom lasagne seemed appropriate and a definite crowdpleaser. Although I can’t get those fresh porcini’s here in the US, the dried ones seem to do the trick. I used more porcini’s and add a bit of butter because I love how the butter helps bring out the richness in the mushrooms.
When served with a salad of greens and tomatoes this is a simple and delicious meal that will ease you right into Fall.

IMG_4855

A rustic and healthy lasagne that feels like Autumn in Italy

Mushroom Lasagne
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. For the mushrooms~
  2. 1.5 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  3. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1 tablespoon butter
  5. 1/3 cup diced sweet onion
  6. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  7. ½ cup red wine
  8. 1 1/4 pounds cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  9. Salt
  10. 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  11. 1 teaspoon fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  12. Freshly ground pepper
  13. For the béchamel~
  14. 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  15. 2 tablespoon butter
  16. 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  17. 3 tablespoons flour
  18. 2 cups milk
  19. 1/4 tsp salt
  20. freshly ground pepper
  21. For the lasagna~
  22. 3/4 pounds no-boil lasagna sheets
  23. 6 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  24. fresh parsley leaves
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit)
  2. Grease bottom and sides of rectangular pan with olive oil
  3. Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2 1/2 cups of boiling water for about 30 minutes. Drain, making sure to squeeze out all the liquid from the mushrooms while reserving the porcini broth
  4. Rinse mushrooms in cool water and roughly chop
  5. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat.
  6. Add onion and garlic and cook for two minutes or until onion is translucent
  7. Add porcini's, their liquid and wine, cooking covered, but not completely, until liquid has almost evaporated.
  8. Increase heat to medium high
  9. Add crimini mushrooms, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and cook until juices from the crimini’s evaporate
  10. Take off heat and set aside
  11. Heat the oil and butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan
  12. Add the shallot and cook until fragrant, about two minutes
  13. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture starts to bubble, but not brown.
  14. Whisk in the milk slowly and stir constantly until mixture thickens
  15. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed.
  16. Strain mixture directly into pan with the mushrooms, reserving about four tablespoons of bechamel
  17. Stir until incorporated and set aside
  18. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil
  19. Add about 4 lasagne sheets and boil for about two minutes. These will be used for the top layer only.
  20. Remove from water and lay to drain on flat surface
  21. Spread the reserved béchamel on bottom of lasagne pan
  22. Top with a layer of uncooked lasagne sheets
  23. Add a generous layer of mushroom mixture followed by a layer of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  24. Repeat layering of lasagne sheets, mushroom mixture and cheese until you have enough room for one more layer
  25. Place partially cooked lasagne sheets on top and cover with the remaining mushroom mixture and cheese
  26. Sprinkle top with parsley
  27. Be sure to cover all corners and exposed sheets with sauce so they will cook thoroughly. If you like some crunch to the top layer you can leave some areas exposed
  28. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes
  29. Remove foil and bake an additional ten minutes or until top is golden browned
  30. Remove from heat and let sit for ten minutes before cutting and serving
Un Bacio in Cucina http://www.unbacioincucina.com/

Rainbow Cookies

Rainbow Cookies have been a tradition in Italian-American baking dating back to the 1900’s by Italian immigrants. They are red, white and green, imitating the colors of the Italian flag, and was a way for them to honor and hold on to the heritage of their country. They are also known as Tricolor and Italian Flag cookies. In the past, I’ve made a twist on the tradition and in honor of our Independence Day in the U.S., I’ve made them red, white and blue instead of the traditional red, white and green. These are one of my favorite cookies to make at Christmas but definitely can make these any time of year. They are full of almond paste and raspberry jam, topped with semi sweet chocolate so can be a bit heavy and rich but oh so good! They are also easy to make but very time consuming. It takes at least three hours to make these beautiful treats but well worth the effort.

Rainbow Cookies. Photo by Leslie Brienza

Rainbow Cookies
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Total Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr
Ingredients
  1. 7 oz almond paste
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 3 sticks butter, unsalted, softened
  4. 4 large eggs, separated
  5. 1 teaspoon almond extract
  6. 2 cups sifted flour
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. 7 drops red food coloring
  9. 7 drops blue food coloring (green for traditional)
  10. 10 oz raspberry preserves, seedless
  11. 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease three 13x9 inch metal or glass baking pans with straight edges
  2. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper and extend over the sides, then grease the paper
  3. Break apart the almond paste into a food processor and grind with sugar until smooth.
  4. Transfer to a large bowl, add butter and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy
  5. Add yolks and almond extract and beat for two minutes at medium speed
  6. Beat in flour and salt on low speed
  7. Clean off beaters and in a separate bowl beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks, about three minutes
  8. Stir one-third egg whites into batter until incorporated
  9. Fold in remaining whites gently until blended
  10. Divide batter into thirds (about 13 oz each)
  11. Stir blue (or green) food coloring into one third of the batter and red food coloring into another, leaving one third plain.
  12. Spread batters in each of the separate baking pans in a thin layer.
  13. Bake layers one at a time until just set and edges begin to brown, 9 to 12 minutes
  14. Loosen edges of cake with a knife then invert layer onto a cooling rack and cool completely
  15. Once all layers are cooled transfer blue (or green) layer to a cookie sheet, spread half of the preserves on top, top with plain layer, add remaining preserves, then top with red layer.
  16. Cover layers with plastic wrap and top with heavy cutting board and/or weight.
  17. Chill three hours or overnight
  18. Melt chocolate in a small metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water
  19. Remove weight and plastic wrap from layers and spread chocolate over the top only
  20. Let chocolate harden at room temperature for about one hour
  21. Cut twelve rows crosswise then cut twelve rows diagonal to make diamond shapes.
Notes
  1. ~Eggs should be at room temperature as they have less viscosity, which helps the cake rise easier
  2. ~Soften butter at room temperature
  3. ~Sift flour before measuring so it aerates which makes a more light and fluffy cake
  4. ~Even though cake layers are thin don't open the oven!
  5. ~After cooling weigh down layers with heavy cookie sheet and a weight
Un Bacio in Cucina http://www.unbacioincucina.com/
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