Lasagna Béchamel

It happens to be snowing in New Jersey as I’m posting this recipe. Which only seems appropriate as this white lasagna is perfect for the winter blues. It’s rich and earthy and just a great cold weather meal. And despite that creamy, dreamy béchamel sauce - it’s actually loaded with good for you ingredients. And, my little secret - I use non-dairy milk in my béchamel - cause that works better for me! So feel free to make that easy 1:1 swap if that works in your house (and tummy!) too! I have some other swaps for you below so keep reading!

Despite being known as a mainstay in French cuisine - béchamel or besciamella, as my people call it - was invented - you guessed it - in Italy! Catherine de Medici’s cooks brought it to France with her in the 1500’s when she married their king. It’s one of the easiest sauces to make, starting with what’s called a roux, a combination of fat and flour, in this case, we’re using butter. And then stretched with milk to make a sauce.

Then there’s those veggies. Mushrooms help boost your immunity during this cold and flu season. They’re also great for your heart because they regulate your blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. Not to mention they add wonderful depth of flavor to the dish. So be sure to load those bad boys in there!

Radicchio was actually used as a pain reducer in ancient times. These days it’s better simply for detoxifying the body and keeping you full. Packed with fiber and antioxidants, this chicory relative can do a lot from regulate blood sugar to aid digestion! And it’s bitter taste mellows when you cook it, making it the perfect compliment to our béchamel sauce.

Here’s a few swaps you can easily make to tailor this dish to ANY diet.
Gluten: swap classic pasta sheets for gluten-free ones. And use corn-starch instead of flour in the sauce.
Dairy/vegan: You can make the roux with olive oil instead of butter, and then use a non-dairy milk for the sauce. Use vegan cheese in place of the parm.

Watch the video then read the recipe below!
Buon Appetito!

Lasagna Béchamel/Besciamella
Serves 8-10

For the Béchamel Sauce
5 Tbs. butter
1/4 C. flour
3 C. milk
1/4 C. parmesan, grated
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

For the Lasagna
1 1/2 lbs. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
1 head radicchio, sliced, leaves separated
2 Tbs. olive oil
pasta sheets
1 C. parmesan, grated

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until the become soft. Add the mushrooms to the pan (you may have to work in batches here depending on the size of your pan) and season them with salt, pepper and thyme. Cook until mushrooms are soft, deep in color and have released their liquid. Set aside.

Heat a deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add butter. When butter has melted, sift in flour, whisking to prevent lumps. Once the roux (it’ll be thick like a paste) forms, slowly pour the milk in and continue whisking until the sauce becomes smooth again. Heat over medium heat until the sauce thickens and begins to bubble in the middle. Check the consistency using a spoon, the sauce should coat the spoon wen you pull it out. Add cheese and nutmeg to the sauce, taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a 9x11 baking tray, begin building your lasagna with a small coating of sauce at the base of the dish. Add in pasta sheets, then a layer of mushrooms, a layer of raw radicchio, more sauce and a handful of cheese. Top with more pasta and continue building in this way until you reach the top of the pan. You final layer should be pasta, covered with more sauce and cheese.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes, or until the top gets golden brown. (If you’re like me and you like the edges a little crunchy, toss it under the broiler for the last 5-7 minutes).

Let lasagna rest for 5 minutes before serving.