Breakaway Cook

Umami Lasagna


You may well be getting tired of me titling things “umami blah blah,” but please be gracious and allow me to tell you about this umami-packed almost-vegetarian pasta-less lasagna.

It all started with a huge pile of baby bella mushrooms (more than two pounds). I chopped them up with an onion and a little garlic confit, and waited for some kind of inspiration to happen. I had plenty of yams from the yam chips experiment, so I thought it might be interesting to layer benriner-ed yams, in place of pasta sheets, in a ceramic lasagna pan and see what else I could come up with to fill some extra layers, and call it lasagna. Here’s how it turned out:

  • Layer 1: mandolined yams in the oiled pan
  • Layer 2: mushroom mixture plus handful of julienned dried tomatoes
  • Layer 3: more yams
  • Layer 4: combo of cooked kale and chard and several anchovy fillets plus an egg, all chopped finely
  • Layer 4: mandolined fresh carrots that needed to be used up
  • Layer 5: sprinkling of Dubliner cheese (major umami going on this crap; tastes like aged gouda)
  • Layer 6: more yams
  • Layer 7: more mushroom mixture
  • Layer 8: more yams and carrots
  • Layer 9: dusting of parmesan

So you can see from that list of ingredients that this thing has some serious umami action going. I also dusted with a combination of umami salt and rosemary salt as I went, with plenty of freshly cracked pepper as well. It has a deep and rich flavor–I’m sure I’ll be making this again, using a similar template with different veggies. I almost added some ham I had sitting around, but I actually figured it might have TOO much umami if I did! I may have been right: this certainly doesn’t need any additional umami.

The thing about umami-rich foods is that you’re so delighted with what you’re eating that you tend to eat less of it. And, every bite is so satisfying, with so much going on in the mouth, that you also tend to eat slower — you almost HAVE to slow down to catch it all. One square was more than enough, along with a small side salad. I did have a nice hunk of bread from Della Fattoria, my favorite bakery in the Bay Area, to mop up the lingering umami bits from the plate. With a glass of old vine zin, it all added up to an almost platonic version of a breakaway meal. Everything was Just Right.