My friend Cathy over at Domestic Joy recently made a post about her search for tomato-less lasagna recipes. I guess this was in the back of my mind when I was peering into my refrigerator last week, wondering what to make for dinner, and spying a big of bag of mushrooms.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, can I make a ragu with mushrooms and stock and milk, leaving out the tomatoes altogether? I endeavored to try, and took myself off to the store to buy lasagna sheets, chicken thigh filets, ricotta and romano cheese. I already had mushrooms, milk, chicken stock, butter, olive oil, onion, apple cider vinegar and garlic.

I started by frying off the chicken, which I had liberally sprinkled with oregano, in olive oil. That alone made my house smell so good! I took the chicken out when it was nice and golden and let it rest on some paper towels.

Button Mushrooms

Button mushrooms are a perfect base to build up complex flavors.

I put into the same pan the diced up mushrooms and onion, along with a big slab of butter. I sauteed them until they got a bit of color and then added a cup of chicken stock. The secret to ragu is to let the liquid cook out slowly two or even three times, of course since there was no tomato in this, it wouldn’t take as long. I let the stock cook out about halfway, scraped the glazy chicken leavings off the bottom of the pan, and added a splash of apple cider vinegar. You want to add the vinegar early enough to have time to lose it’s harshness before the stock is cooked away.

After the stock was nearly gone I added about half a cup of milk and let it cook down. I was pleased to see that the mixture did indeed look very ragu-like; it had a creamy texture and was very thick and cooked down. And so delicious!

Starring Garlic

Plenty of garlic gave the bechamel sauce a real kick.

I mixed the ricotta and about a cup of romano together, and in a different pan I made a bechamel sauce with two huge cloves of crushed garlic mixed in. I shredded the chicken and then layered all the ingredients into my lasagna dish. The result was creamy, rich, garlicy, and so mushroomy. The chicken added nice texture and flavor but definitely was not the star. The richness of the mushroom ragu carried the dish.

Give it a go if you feel like some rich comfort food- minus the tomatoes!

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