Tag Archives: white mushrooms

Orzotto with Mushroom and Spinach

21 Jun

Orzotto… to be honest I do not know if this is an official Italian term or not. But I decided to use the term to refer to this orzo pasta made to resemble a risotto. Makes sense now, no??

I have been playing for a few weeks not with dried mushrooms to give added flavor to my dishes. This is one of my better experiments lately… I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The beauty of this dish is that it cooks almost by itself; no need to be over the stove stirring rice to get a creamy consistency. The creaminess so characteristic of risottos comes from the cheeses blended into the orzo pasta. I used my trusted Sargento 6-cheese Italian cheese blend, Sargento Parmesan and a newfound favorite, crème fraiche.

Sargento Collage

This is one of the recipes I’ve developed to fuel myself up before training for the half marathons I’ve been doing the last few months. It’s easy, it’s filling and it’s nice enough to make even for a romantic dinner.

Orzotto with Mushrooms and Spinach


½ cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
1 cup water
1 ounce of dried mushrooms – porcini or your favorite kind will do fine here…
1 tsp Knorr vegetable stock or ½ vegetable bouillon cube
½ onion, chopped
2 tbs of olive oil
5-6 white button mushrooms, chopped
1 sprig of fresh thyme
3-4 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
3 tbs crème fraiche
3/4 cup Sargento shredded 6-cheese Italian cheese blend
¼ cup Sargento shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Turn off the heat and rehydrate the ounce of dried mushrooms in this water. Cover and let the mushrooms soak for about 30 mins.
  2. After that time has elapsed, strain the mushrooms, reserving the broth you have now created. Cut the mushrooms up in little pieces and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium to high heat, bring back to boil the cup of water that now has become mushroom broth. Make sure you have 1 cup of broth before you start boiling again, if not, just complete the amount with some water. Add the vegetable stock gel or bouillon cube to this broth while it’s coming up to temperature.
  4. While the broth comes to a boil, in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onions for a few minutes. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms and allow them to cook and brown on all sides. For this, you need to leave them alone for a few minutes at a time for the mushrooms to get some color. Add the reconstituted mushrooms and cook them with the browned fresh mushrooms. Strip the leaves from the fresh thyme sprig and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. When the broth is boiling, add the orzo pasta and mix in well to avoid the pasta sticking together. I partially cover the pot to maintain the level of boiling but be able to reduce the heat of the stove to medium.
  6. While the pasta is almost done, add the baby spinach to the pasta saucepot. Cover the pot and turn off the heat from the stove. Allow the heat from the pot and the stove finish cooking the pasta and spinach. After about 5-6 minutes, the pasta should be done and the water should be almost completely absorbed by the pasta. If you find there’s still too much liquid left, you can certainly strain it. But it does not need to be super strained because this broth will help us create the creamy sauce…
  7. Uncover the pot and stir in the cooked mushrooms, the crème fraiche, the shredded cheese blend and the Parmesan. Mix well to combine everything very well. I allow the pasta to stand cover for about 3-4 minutes while I prepare a salad or any other side dish. I find this helps the sauce to get creamy and all the flavors to fully combine.

The result is a creamy rice-like pasta… easy to make and even easier to eat. It is full of flavor because the pasta absorbed the mushroom broth we created.

Hope you are inspired to make this orzotto at home as well…

This post was inspired by products from Sargento Cheese. They did provide me with their cheese for use and review but the recipe, comments and opinions are all my own.

Kick-butt Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

29 Oct

I think the Internet is a wonderful thing… I was planning the menu for my nephew’s 2nd birthday and we had decided to make a vegetarian lasagna and a meat lasagna. I wish my sister would have been satisfied with just the vegetarian lasagna, but she insisted to have something for the non-vegetarians – as if they could not eat my vegetarian one. I was not thrilled about the idea, but someone else was in charge of that dish.

Then, my competitive nature kicked in… I am the aunt of this kid. I have a vegetarian blog. I want to ensure that most people on this party prefer the vegetarian lasagna to the non-veggie one. I want my vegetarian lasagna to BLOW THE HEAD OUT OF THE WATER of that meaty lasagna. This is not about converting anyone to becoming vegetarian. This has nothing to do with the person making the other lasagna. This is a statement… a statement that a delicious lasagna does not need to have meat in it. And not only I wanted to make delicious lasagna… but preferred over a meaty one.

So I decided to throw the challenge to my friends on the internet. I posted my challenge on Serious Eats Talk section. I wanted to see if I could get some inspiration from the folks out there… many of them non-vegetarian who might have some pretty awesome ideas on what to serve. My initial idea was my Spinach and Almond Lasagna in a White Sauce, but I was game to making something more complex.

Kenji, one of the editors of Serious Eats rose to the challenge… not only giving me ideas for this mega-lasagna- throw down I had going on in my head, but actually coming up with a recipe and making it in the middle of the night. Literally… he was cooking at 2AM in the morning. He mixed spinach and mushrooms and gave me some pointers on the technique to use no-boil lasagna noodles. I was so excited by all the recommendations… but I was most impressed and baffled by the fact that Kenji thanked me personally for inspiring him to make this lasagna he had never planned on making.

So of course, this is the lasagna I made for my nephew’s birthday. I cooked all the components and assembled the lasagna the night before. We baked it the night of the party. The people were enticed and almost hypnotized by the smells coming out of the kitchen that night. My sister was impressed by the mushroom mixture. The lasagna already had a following even before we hit the oven.

We baked the meaty lasagnas first… because I just did not want my vegetarian lasagna to be “contaminated” by the smells or potential platter of the meaty ones. So my lasagna had little time to rest before we actually served it. This is how it went:

  • Someone who’s not vegetarian decided to wait until our lasagna was baked off because they were waiting to try ours. She was hoping everyone would fill up on the meaty one so there would be more of the vegetarian one for her to eat.
  • A vegetarian guest was so appreciative that we had something she could eat blindly.
  • I was serving my lasagna, mostly to avoid serving utensil cross-contamination… and when people got to my lasagna they were mostly regretting they had served themselves such a large piece of meaty lasagna. Some people divided their meaty lasagna piece with someone else so they could serve themselves also a large piece of our veggie lasagna.
  • My intention is not to convert anyone into vegetarianism, but someone told me they would become vegetarian if I would cook for them every day. And they invited me to make this lasagna again at their home… because they could not believe I had tried that recipe for the first time on a house full of guests. I was that confident on Kenji’s recipe and my skills…

Here is a picture of my version of the lasagna… but I rather share with you Kenji’s pictures, as well as his recipe. I made some modifications as he used an egg and my mom and I do not eat eggs. So here is the link to the original recipe and my adapted version.

Photo courtesy of J. Kenji López-Alt and Serious Eats


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing baking dish, divided
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 pounds washed fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cottage cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, divided
1 package (15 sheets) no-boil whole-wheat lasagna noodles
24 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
2 medium shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons spelt or whole-wheat flour
2 cups whole milk
1 bag of shredded Italian blend cheeses
12 ounces whole milk mozzarella, grated, divided
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add garlic and 1 shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach in batches, allowing previous batch to wilt before adding next. I saved a handful of fresh spinach on the side. I thought I had read it as part of the recipe, but now I can’t see it anywhere…
  3. Once the spinach is in the skillet and wilted, add 1 cup heavy cream. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a strong simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick and reduced, about 15 minutes. Add nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. While spinach is cooking, combine cottage cheese and 6 tablespoons parsley in the bowl of a food processor. I was suppoed to mix this in a food processor, but I totally skipped this step… and just mixed the cottage cheese with chopped parsley by hand in a bowl. I was just not into dirtying something else…
  5. Combine the cooked spinach and cottage cheese mixture in a large bowl. Also, now add the handful of uncooked chopped spinach. Mix well.
  6. Meanwhile, place lasagna noodles in a 8- by 13-inch baking dish and cover with warm water. Allow to soak, agitating occasionally to prevent sticking, until lightly softened, about 15 minutes. Transfer in a single layer to a clean kitchen towel to dry.
  7. While noodles soak, wipe out spinach pot and return to medium-high heat. Add 3 more tablespoons butter and heat until melted. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and mushrooms start to sizzle, about 10 minutes. Add the other shallot and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and softened, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and lemon juice and stir to combine. Add remaining heavy cream. Bring to a simmer, and cook until lightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to another bowl. It’s amazing how quickly the cream in the mushrooms thicken in comparison to the spinach…
  8. Wipe out pot and return to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and heat until melted. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until light golden blond. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Stir in 2/3rds of the bag of shredded Italian cheese blend and parmesan, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. To assemble lasagna, dry the 8- by 13-inch baking dish and grease with butter. Add 1 cup cheese sauce to bottom of dish. Lay three noodles on top of it, spacing them evenly across the bottom of the dish (there will be some gaps between each noodle and the edge of the pan. This is fine). Top noodles with a bit more sauce and add an even layer of half the mushroom mixture, add some of the shredded cheese and parmesan, then top with another three noodles. Add a bit of sauce again, top with half of spinach/cottage cheese mixture, add some of the shredded cheese and parmesan, then top with another three noodles. Repeat layers with remaining mushroom mixture, spinach mixture, and noodles, ending with a layer of noodles. Pour remaining cheese sauce over top and spread evenly. Sprinkle any remaining shredded cheese and parmesan and place slices of fresh mozzarella evenly over top.
  10. Bake until lasagna is bubbling around the edges, about 20 minutes. If you made the lasagna the night before like I did, allow 30 minutes in the oven to make sure the inside is cooked. Switch broiler on and broil until top is lightly browned, and stay close. It’s no fun going thru all this trouble just to scorch the top of your lasagna…
  11. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Photo courtesy of J. Kenji López-Alt and Serious Eats

We rounded up the menu with a green mesclun salad they sell at The Boys with Avocado and Tomato and a Citrus Ceasar Dressing.  We also served Baked Plantains and Garlic/Parsley Bread.

Thanks Kenji for going above and beyond the call of duty on this one… I was expecting just a combination of ingredients/flavors and maybe a link to a past recipe. Instead, you developed something utterly delicious for me and our guests to enjoy. In my eyes… the VEGETARIAN LASAGNA WON!!!! And that’s all thanks to you…

Creamy Sour Cream Stuffed Mushrooms

4 Apr

I love to buy produce at Costco… but lately I’ve discovered “el pulguero”… yeah, the Flea Market. It doesn’t sound like the name of the place you would like to buy produce. And produce is only about 10% of what they sell there, but the prices and the bargaining power is amazing. Go with $10 bucks on hand, and you’ll fill a few canvas bags full of produce.

I learned about El Pulguero through Tania… she lives around the same area. She started going there to buy produce for the Yoga Center. You find bags of anything and everything for $1. It’s similar to The Boys Farmer’s Market near my sister’s house with their $1 bags.

The catch… most of the produce is ready to be used RIGHT NOW. Some things may have little blemishes or have a few leaves that need to be thrown out. This is usually not produce that you can allow to hang in your fridge or pantry for a long time. But the price is exceptional… way better than any grocery store. It’s like going to Marshall’s. You need to see what’s there and allow the produce “speak to you”.

My mom found the other day some great looking mushrooms, and coming from El Pulguero I didn’t want them to linger too much. That’s when I came across this stuffed mushroom recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli. Of course, I changed it up a bit to make it easier on me to make and to dirty less pots and pans.


10 white button mushrooms stemmed, reserving the stems
3-4 additional mushrooms to use for the filling, chopped finely
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup savory béchamel sauce, recipe here
½ onion, chopped finely
2-3 sprigs of thyme
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Handful of shredded parmesan cheese
2 handfuls of whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
Aged balsamic vinegar – optional, but highly recommended
  1. Clean the mushrooms well using a damp paper towel. Remove the stems and chop them into small pieces and set aside. Reserve the caps for later use.
  2. In a medium skillet, pour a little olive oil and sauté the onions and the mushrooms stems you already chopped. Cook until the mushrooms are browned. Season with the thyme, stripping the leaves from the stems, salt and pepper. Add the béchamel and sour cream. Remove from pan into a bowl and allow cooling a bit.
  3. Mix together the cooled mushroom stem/onion/creamy mix with the parmesan and panko breadcrumbs.
  4. Preheat oven to 425F.
  5. Place all stuffed mushrooms in a large baking dish drizzled with a bit of olive oil. Don’t push the stuffing too much into the mushrooms cavity, but do heap any additional stuffing generously on top of mushrooms.
  6. I usually drizzle a a bit of olive oil and sprinkle some additional salt and pepper to season the raw mushrooms themselves.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked and the top is golden brown.

Serve immediately…

A drizzle of balsamic vinegar at the table. It adds a really nice tang that finishes the dish.

I served this with Spinach Polenta and a side avocado salad…  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Wild Mushroom Lasagna

8 Dec

This Thanksgiving I traveled to visit with my sister and her new baby boy… I noticed this is one of the few times in my life I have spent Thanksgiving outside Puerto Rico, besides the 2 Thanksgivings I spent while living in Chicago a few moons ago. Not even when I lived in NYC I spent Thanksgiving there. Nope… I’ve never seen the Macy’s Parade live. Always on TV.

Since I’ve been vegetarian, I’ve always been the one planning the main menu. If someone wants to bring turkey, they’re welcome… but I plan the menus and they’re all vegetarian for everyone to enjoy all the same. This year, we spent it at a relative’s home so I debated if we should bring something for my mom and me to eat or if we should eat before going there, just like we do for other type of occasions/celebrations.

We decided to make something to bring over because Thanksgiving is such a food celebration, it would feel weird not to eat anything while there. We decided to bring my Tomato Bruschetta as an appetizer because the hosts totally love it… I made a new version of my cranberry preserves, this time with a guava/piña Caribbean twist… and as the main event I prepared a Wild Mushroom Lasagna.

I’ve already mentioned The Boys Farmer’s Market… and they usually have such fresh mushrooms that I could not pass up the opportunity to cook something with an assortment of fresh wild mushrooms. I picked them all, not one came inside a package. It was wonderful…


For the Mushroom Filling:
2 small Portobello mushrooms caps, sliced
5 large white mushrooms, sliced
¼ lbs oyster mushrooms, separated into “leaves”
½ large yellow onion, diced
¼ tsp thyme leaves
2 tbs minced fresh parsley leaves
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the Lasagna:
1 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 ½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tbs minced fresh parsley leaves, divided
3 tbs olive oil
½ large yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbs spelt flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
9 whole wheat no-boil lasagna noodles
¼ cup Gorgonzola cheese, finely crumbled
½ cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded


First, you make the mushroom filling…

  1. In the largest skillet you have, add olive oil and onions. Afterwards add the garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent for about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms in a single layer. Try not to crowd the pan… if it does, it’s better to make it in two separate batches. Allow the mushrooms to cook without moving them too much. They will brown and get a delicious flavor.
  3. After the mushrooms have browned on all sides, add salt, thyme and pepper. Mix a few more times and add the parsley. Allow the mushrooms to cool before adding them to the lasagna. You could also make this the night before if you’d like.

To make the sauce…

  1. Add olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring frequently, about 1 ½ minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Gradually whisk in milk and broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, whisking frequently. Add salt and bay leaf and reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure to scrape bottom and corners of saucepan.
  2. While the sauce cooks, place shredded Gruyère and 1/2 cup Parmesan in large heatproof bowl.
  3. Also, combine ricotta, black pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley in medium bowl. Set both bowls aside.
  4. Add the cream cheese to the thickened sauce. Stir until the cheese has melted. Remove saucepan from heat and discard bay leaf. Gradually whisk 1/4 cup sauce into ricotta mixture. Pour remaining sauce over Gruyère mixture and stir until smooth; set aside.

Now we assemble…

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2.  Take a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Distribute 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of baking dish. Place 3 noodles in single layer on top of sauce.
  4. Spread 1/2 the ricotta mixture evenly over noodles and sprinkle evenly with parmesan and ½ the Gorgonzola. Drizzle more sauce evenly over cheese. Add a layer of the cooked mushrooms.
  5. Repeat the layering of dry noodles, sauce, ricotta, parmesan, Gorgonzola, mushrooms and more sauce.
  6. Place final 3 noodles on top and cover completely with remaining sauce, spreading with rubber spatula and allow spilling over noodles. Sprinkle evenly with more parmesan and ½ cup mozzarella.
  7. Cover lasagna with a piece of parchment paper and a piece of foil. Bake until edges are just bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.
  8. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes until surface is spotty brown. Cool 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons parsley.

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