One of the things I love about where I live is that I’m just a few minutes walk from Carlisle Street’s abundant food choices. One of the newer options is Ilona Staller, and I’m mighty pleased to have such a fancy local. I end up eating there far too often – and far too much – for my budget, but in my defence it is really close and really good! They have a fairly short menu which changes regularly and always has a couple of good vegetarian options. Recently, one of those options was a mushroom rotolo. I’d never heard of rotolo before, but I’m glad I have now.
Rotolo is like a rolled lasagne which is poached and then sliced into thick rounds (did you know that already?). The pasta was soft and comforting, the mushroom filling deeply flavoured, and there was lovely cheesyness. I liked it so much that I decided to make it myself as soon as I could. Like, the very next day.
I did a quick google search to get a sense of the method, but I pretty much made it up as I went along. In an imitating-other-people’s-brilliance kinda way. And a made-a-lotta-lasagnes-in-my-life kinda way. The one essential thing I learned from the vast array of rotolo recipes on the internet was how to wrap the rolls cloth to poach them at the end. The poaching avoids the hazard of dry lasagne, making the pasta soft and amazing.
The other trick is to add a bit of vegetarian mushroom ‘oyster’ sauce to the mushrooms. I learned about it when Hanne Blank made me these vegan mushroom dumplings when I visited her in Baltimore at easter. It adds an incredible deep mushroomyness that’s just amazing.
I also spread a slick of dijon mustard across the lasagne sheets before adding the other fillings. I’ve been a bit obsessed with this technique ever since I made Smitten Kitchen’s Cauliflower and Caramelised Onion Tart – it adds something subtle but amazing. I also spread some Greek yoghurt over the mustard for a little extra tang (actually mostly because I wanted to use it up before it turned). And it was good.
The whole thing was a bit of work for a weeknight dinner, but it’s not too onerous and it is utterly delicious.
for the mushroom filling
small onion, finely chopped
500g mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
a good sploosh of mushroom ‘oyster’ sauce
for the bechamel sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheese (whatever you have – parmesan is good, gruyere would be amazing, cheddar is perfectly fine)
a pinch of grated nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
4 fresh lasagne sheets
4 teaspoons mustard
4 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
Start with the mushrooms. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the onions. Prod for a few minutes until they get a bit translucent, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook over medium heat until everything softens up and turns a lovely caramel colour. Add the mushroom sauce, season to taste, and set aside.
To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk a little at a time, making sure it’s thoroughly incorporated before adding more. Once all the milk has been added, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat, add the cheese, nutmeg, and seasoning.
To assemble, lay a lasagne sheet on your bench. Spread a teaspoon of mustard over the top third. Follow with a tablespoon of the yoghurt. I spread the mushrooms over the the top two-thirds, then the bechamel a little further down so I got pure mushrooms in the centre, and cheese sauce holding the outside layers together. Roll up the sheet and wrap tightly in muslin or a clean teatowel, making sure you secure the ends (a few good twists should do the job).
Carefully arrange the rolls in a large deep frypan or saucepan. Pour in enough boiling water to just cover the rolls. Cover and place the pan over medium heat – you want to just gently poach for around 15-20 minutes.
Once the rolls are done take them out of the pan, unwrap, and slice them into four or five thick slices.
I served mine on pumpkin mash because that’s what they did at Ilona Staller and I happened to have a chunk of pumpkin in the fridge, but you could also just spoon over a little bit of passata and call it delicious.