Monday, April 6, 2009

Nettle and Porcini Lasagna

For a potluck dinner tonight I fell back on the old standby—lasagna—but gussied it up with stinging nettles and porcini (both dried and frozen). Making lasagna always feels like a trip in the Wayback Machine to me. As a graduate student it was one of three dishes that I made for the various potlucks and dinner parties we had with our professors and fellow students, the other two being sitr-fry and a Mexican casserole that sported crushed tortilla chips on top. Those three dishes were pretty much the extent of my culinary knowledge at the time. Making them now is like finding a favorite, long-lost t-shirt in the bottom of the closet and trying it on. The t-shirt probably won't end up in the regular rotation ever again, but it's nice to have it around.

9-12 lasagna noodles
32 oz ricotta
4 cups boiled stinging nettles
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound fresh porcini (or button) mushrooms, sliced
1-2 oz dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in a cup of warm water
1 16 oz mozzarella
1/8 tsp nutmeg
olive oil

1. Saute onion and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil until tender, then push to one side of pan and add sliced mushrooms. When mushrooms have started to brown slightly, add tomatoes and stir. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding water as necessary. After 30 minutes, stir in rehydrated mushrooms and their liquid. Simmer another 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile blanche nettles in boiling water for 2 minutes, remove, and wring out. Save water in pot. Chop nettles and mix with ricotta. Season with grated nutmeg.

3. Boil lasagna noodles in same pot (making use of those nettle nutrients) until al dente.

4. To make the lasagna: Smear a little sauce in a 9 X 13-inch oven-proof dish. Lay down 3-4 noodles and cover with half the nettle-ricotta mixture. Top with sauce and a third of the mozzarella. Repeat: noodles, nettle-ricotta, sauce, mozzarella. Cover with one more layer of noodles and the rest of the sauce and mozzarella.

5. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Discard foil and bake another 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving.


Heather said...

Oh god oh god. Lasagna, of course! Why not? It's a perfect way to use spinach (poor man's nettles), and nettles could benefit from the occasional blanket of cheese and sauce. I am on this like sting on nettle.

mdmnm said...


Have you tried making lasagna without first boiling the noodles? As long as there is plenty of liquid, it works well for me and makes assembly much, much more easy.

John in Bellingham said...

LC - not really on topic, but do you collect verpas (verpa bohemica, sometimes referred to as 'early morels')? They are just starting to emerge up here.

Anonymous said...

Old, out-of-rotation t-shirt for you, time-honored favorite for many. Lasagna is comfort, lasagna is (for some, including me, heritage; lasagna is what we ate for Christmas dinner as a kid growing up in Jersey). And with nettles and porcini, no less! This sounds delish!

Langdon Cook said...

Heather - Like sting on nettle? That's too good!

Mdmnm - You know, I haven't, although I've heard similar reports. Next time I'll give it a try.

John - I sometimes go looking for the verpas to get my eyes screwed in right for morel season, but I don't eat them much. Lots of contradictory info about those little buggers, so I play it safe.

Anonymous - You're right, the t-shirt analogy is unfair. Lasagna should always be in the rotation.

Jon Roth said...

Lasagna is a great comfort food, and a perfect bake and take dish for potluck. I'd love to try it with the nettles some time, sounds delish!

audrey said...

Great local/seasonal take on lasagna. It's nice to see that you use dried and frozen ingredients too. Any tips on drying nettles bought at the farmers market?

Michael @ said...

I had the privilege of tasting this at the potluck last night, and I can verify it was killer :). John - funny, I asked Langdon the same question about verpas - and decided not to eat them.

John in Bellingham said...

At the risk of completely hijacking this thread, a bit more on the verpas. As noted, most guides advise against eating them and some classify them as outright poisonous, but I believe much of this is based on second-hand information and general caution toward any of the non-morchella species in the morel family. In any case, parboiling them prior to use seems to leach out whatever ill properties they may have. (As they boil, they'll turn the water a cloudy grayish-brown and even release a bit of oil.) I won't eat them without parboiling but know several old-timers who have eaten them straight for years with no apparent short- or long-term ill effects. They're considered a prize edible up here in the north counties.

The Bites Site said...

That looks absolutely wonderful - so gooey and savory.

Langdon Cook said...

Jon - Bake and take is the ticket for good potluck. If you like spinach lasagna I'm sure you'll like it with nettles.

Audrey - Spread the nettles on a screen in a sunny room and use a fan to blow off the moisture. It'll take a couple days in our climate. You could try the lowest setting in the oven too.

Michael and John - I posted about verpas last spring here and here. John's correct about folks eating them all their lives with no trouble, or at least no trouble attributed to the verpas. I'm always tempted, but since they don't taste nearly as good to me as true morels, I almost always pass. It's worth remembering that the science of edible mushrooms isn't much more than folklore with some species. If you're comfortable with the level of scientific and anecdotal info, then go for it.

W C said...

The Salad looks delicious!

Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.-Plutarch (46 AD - 120 AD)