Fresh From Nancy's Garden

A Fun Place For Gardening Tips and Great Recipes

Mini Mushroom Lasagna inspired by Franco, Tuscookany and Big Night

Doesn’t this look delicious?  I admit, it’s fairly time consuming and yes, there are lots of ingredients, but it’s really easy to make. And after one bite, you’ll agree it’s worth all the effort! It’s just that good. 

When I was at my cooking vacation at Torre Del Tartufo, tuscookany.com, Franco, our chef, taught us how to make an authentic porcini lasagna. It was September and porcini mushrooms were abundant and inexpensive and oh so delicious. I’ve made it several times since I’ve been home and want to share the story (and Franco’s recipe) behind this “mini-version” of Franco’s original.

It was a rainy Saturday morning–the kind of day that makes me want to spend hours cooking in the kitchen–and I was hungry for mushroom lasagna. I made a quick trip to Farmer’s Market for fresh mushrooms, came home, cranked up the sound track to the movie Big Night and headed to the kitchen. 

I was slicing the mushrooms and listening to Louis Prima sing Buona Sera when inspiration hit me. I always loved the scene when the brothers make the timpano and decided to make a “porcini lasagna timpano.” It would be my little ode to Franco, Tuscookany, the movie and Italy–all in one feast. 


Franco’s Porcini Lasagne Recipe 
(made mini by me)
For the tomato sauce
3 large cans San Marzano whole tomatoes (pricey, but worth it)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

For the bechamel sauce (besciamella)
1/2 cup flour
5 TBS butter
1 liter milk, more if needed
1 whole white onion, peeled
4 cloves
1 pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

For the lasagna
1 pound box lasagna (we made fresh, but at home I don’t)
4 large handfuls parmesan cheese (hard to say exactly how much, just have a lot ready)
2 medium size mozzarella cheese, diced (same with this–have extra just in case)
12 basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, chopped
tomato sauce (see above)
bechamel sauce (see above)
2 lbs. fresh mushrooms, sliced thin
1 small container dried porcini (if you’d like)
3-5 TBS olive oil
2-3 twigs fresh thyme, chopped fine
1-2 small twigs fresh rosemary, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste

I know, I know…it looks hard…and there’s a whole lot of ingredients, but just break it down into steps. So turn up the music and get started.

To make the tomato sauce:

  1. Pass tomatoes through a food mill. I had never used one before Italy but they’re really fun. I know it’s time consuming but really worth it. You can use store bought tomato sauce if you have to, but it’s much better this way. 
  2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add onions and garlic and saute until golden.
  3. Add tomato sauce and cook on medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper and chopped basil leaves.
  4. If the sauce is too sour add 1/2 tsp. baking soda. (It won’t be if you use the right tomatoes.)
  5. You will probably have leftovers, but it freezes well for next time.
When it’s done, set aside on stove and continue with the bechamel.

To make the bechamel:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring until it’s smooth to make the roux. Remove from heat.
  2. Put milk and clove-studded onion in a sauce pan and add the pinch of nutmeg. Bring to a boil.
  3. You can do both of these steps at the same time or separately, depending on how much you like to multi-task.
  4. Once the milk is boiling, take out the onion and slowly add the roux to the milk.
  5. Stir constantly until it’s smooth. You might need to add more milk.
  6. Set aside and continue to next step. When you go to assemble, you might need to add more milk to thin it a bit.
To make the lasagna:

1. Heat large pan, add olive oil and garlic. When hot, add the thinly sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until mushrooms are very tender. Season to taste with thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Take off heat and set aside.

2. Cook pasta according to directions. When they’re done, dip in cold water then lay out on a clean tea towel while you’re getting everything else ready.

To assemble the lasagna:

First, make an assembly line with all the ingredients in the order you’re going to put them in the ramekins. It makes the whole process much easier and you don’t have to remember what goes in first.

1. Butter the bottom and sides of four 4″ x 2 1/2 ” ramekins.

2. Ladle enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of each ramekin.

3. Drape pasta in and over each bowl.

4. Spoon bechamel over pasta. Just enough to coat it.

5. Add a layer of mushrooms, tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, mozzarella and basil leaves.

6. Fold pasta over and repeat one to two more layers, depending on the size of your ramekin.

7. Make sure top layer is covered with cheese.

8. Puncture with a knife to avoid bubbles.

9. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Take out of oven, let cool. At this point you can refrigerate and finish the next day. It’s actually better that way. But if you’re anxious to eat it (I always am) let it cool down and then bake for another 15-20 minutes.

It should look like this when it comes out of the oven.

Like the pineapple upside down cake, the question was…when to flip? I put it on a plate right away.
Again, I crossed my fingers, and luckily, it came right out. The final test was just ahead. How would it look when I cut it?

The answer–delicioso! I finished listening to Stornelli Amorisi by Claudio Villa and waited for my friends to show up for dinner. They loved it and your friends will too!


Once again, I’m so happy to welcome my newest readers in such far away places as Namibia, Oman, Pakistan, St. Lucia, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Taiwan and Spain. Thank you for all your comments! And as always, enjoy!


And don’t forget…you can read it first at http://www.stunewslaguna.com. You’ll learn all about Laguna Beach and feel like a local!

Categories: Everything Italian, Main Dishes

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3 replies

  1. Ramekin lasagna! You're brilliant! Mushrooms go into pretty much everything I make – I can't get enough of them. And don't get me started on lasagna. Mmm! I have to say, I am oh so jealous of your garden. One day I hope to have one like yours – I'll be getting started in May! Hope you have a fun St. Paddy's day!

  2. WOW! It looks amazing! I will plan to make this on our next rainy day here in St. Paul. It is St. Patrick's Day and 79 degrees – unheard of in the state of Minnesota. Pay back will happen when we least expect it – but I will have mini lasagna for dinner.Thanks.

  3. Looks like quite the endeavor, but so well worth it!

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