Wild Mushroom Pasticcio

Originally, this dish was made with a small tube-shaped pasta (such as penne), but I make it with lasagne noodles. It looks fancy enough to serve to guests for a casual dinner (not like macaroni and cheese). Pasticcio originated about 1900 in Greece, but it was invented by a Frenchman: use a white sauce.

Make this with only plain ol' white mushrooms from the grocery store, if you like. Substitute dry tofu, crumbled, for the cottage cheese; or use ricotta cheese. Even use cream or half-and-half for the milk! Add more mushrooms. Lots of options.

2 1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms (white ones from the grocery store)
1 to 2 oz. dried fancy mushrooms (about 1/2 c dried; or more)
3 c milk
2 T flour and 2 T oil/butter for roux (or thicken sauce with cornstarch)
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, minced
1 3/4 c grated parmesan
3 T wine or sherry (optional)
1 16-oz. container cottage cheese
1/4 t thyme
1/4 t rosemary
1/4 t nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
~6 lasagna noodles, uncooked (or more, depending on the size of your baking dish)

Drain the cottage cheese well. Set over the sink in a strainer for 15-30 minutes. Press on the cheese a little. You want it as dry as possible so the dish isn't watery.

Rehydrate dried mushrooms in boiling water. When soft, drain well (there will be bits of sand, etc.). Chop.

Chop fresh mushrooms. Sauté with onions. Add garlic; watch! You don’t want to burn the garlic!

Add rehydrated mushrooms. Simmer to drive off the excess liquid from the fresh mushrooms. You want a pretty dry mixture to avoid having the pasticcio swimming in liquid, even after it’s baked.

Add thyme and rosemary, wine/sherry, and 1/2 c of the parmesan cheese.

Make a white sauce from the milk. Heat 2 T oil/melt butter. Add 2 T flour and stir well until it makes a “clump.” Watch! You don’t want a brown roux for this dish! Add milk, whisking constantly. Heat the milk first, if you like; I don’t bother. Add nutmeg. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I usually don’t add any salt because the cheese is salty. On the other hand, I salt everything very lightly and am used to unsalty food.)

"Audition" the dry lasagna noodles in the pan. When they're dry, they snap off easily. I prepare exactly lengths to put on the top (pretty) and bottom (easier serving) of the dish. I use the leftovers, plus more, as needed, in the middle.

Remove noodles.

Spray a 13” x 9” pan with Pam. Put 1/4 c white sauce and 1/4 c water in the bottom of the pan; this gives a “steamy start” to the noodles. Then layer the ingredients thusly (or use any order, but put a layer of noodles on the bottom for easy service):

all the cottage cheese
parmesan cheese

Bake 25 minutes at 400. Let rest 5 minutes or so; it will be hothothot and burn the roof of your mouth.

Freezes well. Warm to room temperature before baking.

Note about cream sauces: If you want a thinner sauce, use 1 T each of flour and oil/butter. Thicker? Use 3. Even thicker? Use 4. Made with 2 T flour and oil/butter works well for this recipe, however.

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