It’s autumn, full of a thick carpet of leaves on the ground, whipping past my legs as I walk down the street. I love autumn and the onset of winter like no other season. Michigan does winter well (except last year, it was oddly mild) and it brings cold, icicles and deep frosts, thick snowflakes that stick to everything, and a hush over the world. I like to drive to the lakeshore in the winter, when it is quiet and dark.
In these winters, you need something warm and rich to come home to – something that is the equivalent of looking through a well-lit window into a family sitting down to dinner. In this recipe, the bitterness of the rapini is bright and fresh and the creamy cheese and bechamel sauce curls around your bones like a late-night hug.
Just promise me you’ll have a glass of wine with this and curl up to a movie after.
rapini and portobello lasagna
1 package lasagna noodles, prepared to directions (or fresh!)
2 bunches rapini (about 1.5 to 2 lbs), with hard stems removed
3 shallots, sliced thin
1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated.
1 cup Parmesan, grated.
1 lb. portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp. minced fresh sage
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 1/4 cups milk
1 cup onion, sliced
3 tbsp. flour
1 bay leaf
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp. butter
For the filling: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the rapini and cook for a quick 2-3 minutes. Remove from pot and blanch in cold water to stop the cooking process. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and allow to become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook approximately 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and combine rapini, mushrooms, sage, and most of the gruyere. Mix until even.
Prepare the bechamel. Combine milk, onion, bay leaf, and butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Strain bay leaf and onion from milk. Melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat and mix in flour, stirring constantly. Now begin slowly adding the milk, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes until mixture thickened.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a baking dish (I used a 13x9x2) layer bechamel sauce first, then noodles, then mixture, repeating until reaching the top with a layer of noodles at the end. Finish with reserved gruyere and parmesan. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until top layer browns and is bubbly.