one of my favorite dishes is just a simple mushroom ricotta ravioli with a drizzle of brown butter-sage sauce. the earthiness of the mushrooms, the lightness of the ricotta and the nutty richness of the brown-butter sage makes for a perfect flavor combination. unfortunately, one of the few things i still haven't invested in for my kitchen is a pasta maker, so unable to make my own homemade ravioli, i've deconstructed this dish to form a delicious lasagna. so delicious that it might even be better than the ravioli form . . .
brown butter-sage mushroom lasagna
for the pasta:
1 lb. lasagna noodles
for the brown butter:
1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tbs.)
6 sage leaves, plus more for garnish
for the filling:
16 oz. ricotta
2 medium sized eggs
2 tbs. olive oil
2 lbs. assorted mushrooms (i used shitake, oyster and portobellos this time, though porcini's, chanterelles, cremini are all great choices)
1 cup pine nuts, toasted
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
for the topping:
4 tbs. flour
2 cups low-fat milk (whole is fine, but skim won't give you the thickness you need)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup gruyere, shredded
for lasagna noodles:
bring large pot of water to boil. salt heavily with sea salt. everyone that's ever made lasagna has probably run into the problem of having the sheets of pasta stick together. some people add a drizzle of oil to the water, but i think stirring every few minutes is much more effective. boil for about 6 to 7 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. remember, they'll cook a bit more in the oven. once pasta is cooked, drain and toss with olive oil to prevent sticking.
for brown butter (start while water is boiling for pasta):
place 1 stick of butter in a small saucepan. turn the heat to medium-low and slowly melt butter. the heat eventually will separate the milk solids from the butterfat and toast the milk solids giving brown butter its color and flavor. as it heats, it's perfectly natural for the butter to foam as liquids move up to the surface. once the butter has reached a rich amber color (not quite brown as brown butter would suggest), remove from heat and skim off the foam from the top. add 4 of the sage leaves to infuse the butter wish sage flavor. run through sieve to remove brown bits. set aside.
for filling (start while water is boiling & butter is browning):
combine ricotta with 2 eggs. season with 1 tsp. of kosher salt and set aside. heat large saute pan over medium-high heat. drizzle with 1 tbs. of olive oil. add half the mushrooms and cook for about 4 minutes or until mushrooms cook down and become tender to the bite. season to taste with salt & pepper and remove mushrooms to a separate bowl. return pan to heat and drizzle with another tablespoon of olive oil and repeat with second batch of mushrooms. toss half the brown butter (about 3.5 tablespoons) with mushrooms.
preheat oven to 375 degrees at this point.
assemble lasagna by overlaying 3 sheets of noodles on the bottom of a lightly oiled 9 x 13 pyrex or ceramic baking dish. using a spatula, spoon and spread one third of the ricotta cheese mixture onto noodles. top with one third of the mushrooms and sprinkle with pine nuts. repeat two more times, with the final top layer being mushrooms.
for bechamel sauce:
heat medium saucepan over medium heat and pour in remaining brown butter. whisk and incorporate in 4 tbs. of flour to form a roux (a french base for thickening sauces). slowly whisk in milk. add remaining 2 leaves of sage and bring sauce to a simmer, whisking often. the sauce will thicken from the roux as it heats up. once it starts to bubble, season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg.
pour bechamel sauce over assembled lasagna and bake for 40 minutes. remove from oven, sprinkle with gruyere and broil low for another 5 to 10 minutes until cheese starts to bubble and brown. serve hot with sage leaves as garnish.