Many of us Ithaca old timers remember Abby’s, a restaurant in the Motor Vehicles Plaza that was run by Abby Nash from 1984 to 1990.   It was a sad day for Ithaca diners when Abby’s closed its doors because it was a consistently wonderful place to eat and we all had our favorites.  My favorite dish was Abby’s mushroom lasagna and I was lucky enough to run into Abby the other day. He was hosting a cooking demonstration of his mushroom lasagna.  This is the original recipe for his mushroom lasagna and it really is a delicacy.   It takes a lot of time to make and you need a pasta maker.  But it really is worth the effort.  Abby uses freshly grated parmesan, the highest quality he can find such as Reggiano.  If you want to truly appreciate the different grades of parmesan, set up a blind tasting.  My hands down favorite is the Reggiano. When selecting the variety of mushrooms,; the more exotic the types of mushroom, the better.  You can re-hydrate dry mushrooms such as porcini.  I also like to use porcini powder.  Morels, shitake, oyster, and chanterelles are a great mixture along with some regular brown mushrooms.     If you’ve never made homemade pasta with a pasta maker before, the important thing is not to have the dough be too wet.  Have flour on hand and when you put the sheets of dough through the pasta maker dust them first with flour if needed.  The dough should be smooth so if it gets rough or has holes or is sticky, it probably needs more flour.  Making pasta from scratch does take practice.  ABBY’S MUSHROOM LASAGNA  yield 6 med. servings 


Tomato Sauceyield 1 ½ c

extra virgin olive oil

2 ½ oz = about 5TBS

med. onion, chopped

4 oz

med. garlic clove, mashed to a paste


salt & freshly ground pepper

to taste

1  canned  tomatoes

28 oz


med. onion, chopped

4 oz

salt & freshly ground pepper

to taste

med. garlic clove, mashed to a paste


mushrooms, washed & dried

1 ½ lbs

mozzarella, sliced

6 oz

Italian parmesan, freshly & finely grated

3 oz

Béchamel Sauce

yield 2 ½ c

unsalted butter

2 ½ oz


¼ c

whole milk

2 ½ c



salt & freshly ground pepper

to taste

Spinach Pasta

yield 8 6 X 10 pcs

LG eggs


spinach, cooked & squeezed very dry

1 ½ oz (4 oz uncooked)

All purpose or bread flour

6-7 oz

Notes: use a mixture of assorted fresh mushrooms (they will yield 3 ½ c cooked).  Béchamel must be hot when assembling lasagna so it’s spreadable; if made ahead, reheat gently over hot H2O (it burns easily) or in microwave.  Slice or grate cheeses very cold for the best yield in the least time expended.

1. Béchamel: in med. saucepan over low heat melt butter.  Off heat whisk in flour until lump-free.  Cook over low heat for 4-5 min. whisking constantly.  Heat milk in microwave (or over med. heat in med. saucepan) until scalded.  Remove flour butter mixture (roux) from heat & let cool.

2. Off heat add hot milk to roux, whisking well esp. along bottom & corners of pan.  Return to heat, add S&P & nutmeg.  Cook over low heat, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 30-45 min.

3. Tomato sauce: separate tomatoes from juice, reserving latter.  Squeeze well, chop  & add to juice.  In med. saucepan over med. heat  olive oil, onions  S&P.  Cook until wilted but not browned, stirring often.  Add garlic, cook 1 min.  Add tomatoes, simmer uncovered, stirring often, 30 min., until thickened.

4. Mushrooms: place butter, onions & S&P in LG skillet over med. heat.  Cook until wilted but not browned, stirring often.  Add garlic, cook 1 min.  Add mushrooms, cook until tender, stirring often,  about 10 min. 5. Preheat oven 400°F/205°C.  Position oven rack  from bottom of oven.  Oil 8 X 12" baking pan.6. Pasta: place egg, spinach & about ½ c flour in food processor.  Process until finely chopped, about 1 min.  Add flour, process until dough masses on blade,  about 1 min.  Knead dough by hand until homogenous,  about 2 min.  Divide dough into golf ball sized pieces that have been shaped into a rectangle. Using pasta machine roll at widest setting, folding dough over onto itself once, 8-10 times until dough becomes very smooth.  Roll once at each setting, ending w/ narrowest setting.  Cut dough sheets into lasagna  noodle sized pieces.  Let dry on rack or kitchen towels until they begin to turn leathery, about 20 min.7. Cook pasta until barely tender in large pot boiling salted H2O until just tender, about 3 min.  Immediately place in a pan of ice H2O to stop cooking.  When pasta is cool enough to handle remove from ice H2O (don’t leave in H2O longer than necessary).  Dry on kitchen towels.8. Assembly: Discrete layers make a better presentation.  Spread ¼ béchamel on bottom of pan.  Cover w/ pasta, then ¼ béchamel, ½ mushrooms.  Then 2nd layer pasta, ½ tomato sauce, 1/3 parmesan.  Then 3rd layer pasta, mozzarella.  Then 4th layer pasta, ¼ béchamel, remaining mushrooms.  Then 5th layer pasta, remaining tomato sauce, 1/3 parmesan.  Top layer should be pasta, remaining béchamel & remaining parmesan.9. Bake covered w/ foil 20 min.  Uncover, bake 20 min. or until top is light golden brown.