For a potluck dinner tonight I fell back on the old standby—lasagna—but gussied it up with stinging nettles and porcini (both dried and frozen). Making lasagna always feels like a trip in the Wayback Machine to me. As a graduate student it was one of three dishes that I made for the various potlucks and dinner parties we had with our professors and fellow students, the other two being sitr-fry and a Mexican casserole that sported crushed tortilla chips on top. Those three dishes were pretty much the extent of my culinary knowledge at the time. Making them now is like finding a favorite, long-lost t-shirt in the bottom of the closet and trying it on. The t-shirt probably won’t end up in the regular rotation ever again, but it’s nice to have it around.
9-12 lasagna noodles
32 oz ricotta
4 cups boiled stinging nettles
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound fresh porcini (or button) mushrooms, sliced
1-2 oz dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in a cup of warm water
1 16 oz mozzarella
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1. Saute onion and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil until tender, then push to one side of pan and add sliced mushrooms. When mushrooms have started to brown slightly, add tomatoes and stir. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding water as necessary. After 30 minutes, stir in rehydrated mushrooms and their liquid. Simmer another 30 minutes.
3. Boil lasagna noodles in same pot (making use of those nettle nutrients) until al dente.
4. To make the lasagna: Smear a little sauce in a 9 X 13-inch oven-proof dish. Lay down 3-4 noodles and cover with half the nettle-ricotta mixture. Top with sauce and a third of the mozzarella. Repeat: noodles, nettle-ricotta, sauce, mozzarella. Cover with one more layer of noodles and the rest of the sauce and mozzarella.
5. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Discard foil and bake another 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving.