Asparagus Lasagna

Lasagne agli asparagi (Asparagus Lasagna)

In Emilia-Romagna, pasta, primi piatti, Spring by Frank Fariello45 Comments

A good dish of lasagna is one of the most satisfying meals I can imagine. But, to be honest, a dish of classic lasagne alla bolognese can be a bit on the heavy side, especially as the weather gets warmer. That’s the beauty of vegetarian lasagne; if not exactly dietetic, they are lighter than meat-based lasagne and yet totally satisfying. You can make lasagne with almost any vegetable, but perhaps my favorite is asparagus lasagna, made with the most elegant and, to my taste, most toothsome of Spring vegetables.  The basic technique is just the same as for lasagne alla bolognese (see this post for the recipe) only substituting asparagus purée for the bolognese sauce.

Ingredients

Makes one large lasagna, enough for a crowd

  • One batch of fresh egg pasta, made with 4 eggs, cut into large squares and parboiled
  • One batch of béchamel sauce, made with 1 liter/1 quart of milk
  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Butter

Directions

Begin by preparing a batch of fresh egg pasta, then a good portion of béchamel sauce. But instead of the ragù, you prepare a bunch of asparagus two ways: Take a bunch of asparagus, trim and peel them, then boil, or better, steam them in lightly salted water until tender—not crisp tender or mushy, but fully tender. Cut off the tips and set them aside, and purée the remaining stems in a blender or food processor with a bit of béchamel sauce. Season the purée with salt to taste—it should be quite savory.

Now assemble your lasagna just as you would classic lasagne: place a layer of parboiled pasta in a buttered baking dish, then a thin layer of béchamel, followed by a layer of asparagus purée, then place a few asparagus tips here and there, then sprinkle generously with grated parmesan cheese.

Keep on layering in this way until you have used up your ingredients—or until you have laid down four or five layers of pasta. (This kind of lasagna should not be too thick.) Cover with a layer of béchamel, sprinkle with more grated parmesan and dot with butter.

Bake in a hot oven (400F/200C) for about 20 minutes or so, until the top is lightly browned. Allow the dish to settle and cool for 10-15 minutes or more—see below—before serving.

Lasagne agli asparagi (Asparagus Lasagna)

Notes

The basic technique for asparagus lasagna is really quite easy once you get the hang of making the béchamel and fresh pasta. And it can almost be an every-day dish if you use store-bought fresh pasta, although, as I’ve commented before, finding true fresh egg pasta suitable for this kind of lasagna can be a challenge. If you use no-boil lasagna sheets, make sure to make a rather loose béchamel and slather it abundantly over the pasta, as unboiled pasta absorbs a lot of sauce. Another substitution that, however unorthodox, I like better: egg roll wrappers. Yes, egg roll wrappers.  While they lack the rich egg flavor of homemade pasta, they have the same fine, silky texture as very fine homemade pasta. And you add them directly to the baking dish, no pre-boiling necessary, saving considerable time and effort.

If you want a richer dish, you can sauté the asparagus tips in butter before adding them to the dish. And you can also make the dish even more savory if you like by allowing the asparagus purée to insaporire in a soffritto of butter and shallots before folding in a bit of béchamel. In the alternative, instead of asparagus purée, you can sauté both tips and stems in butter, along with a bit of shallot, and layer them over the béchamel. And some versions of asparagus lasagna really go to town, adding bits of soft cheese like a fontina or bel paese, and/or shredded prosciutto along with the asparagus tips.

You can make all sorts of vegetable lasagne using the same basic method. For vegetables (like mushrooms) that don’t purée too well, you can simply slice them thinly and sauté them in butter or oil, along with a bit of shallot or onion  or garlic (depending on the vegetable and the effect you are after). If fact, almost any  sauteed contorno can do service to stuff lasagne in this way: funghi trifolati, piselli alla romana… You can even make lasagna with a combination of different vegetables, with each layer of pasta dressed with a different vegetable. There is really no end to the variations you can dream up. And with all that lovely béchamel and butter, they are all delicious!It is very important to let the dish rest for some time before serving. Not only is the pasta scalding hot when it has just come out of the oven, but as the dish cools it also firms up a bit. If you serve asparagus lasagna—or any lasagna—direct from the oven, it will fall apart when you serve it. And the longer you wait, the firmer the dish will be. A 10-15 minute wait is the minimum, but you can let it rest for up to 30 minutes. And don’t worry, it will still be nice and warm.

Nota bene: More tips on lasagna-making are included in the post on lasagne alla bolognese.

Lasagne agli asparagi (Asparagus Lasagna)

Rating: 51

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: Enough for a crowd

Lasagne agli asparagi (Asparagus Lasagna)

Ingredients

  • One batch of fresh egg pasta, made with 4 eggs
  • One batch of béchamel sauce, made with 1 liter/1 quart of milk
  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Butter

Directions

  1. Begin by preparing a batch of fresh egg pasta, then a good portion of béchamel sauce (see Notes for links to the recipes). But instead of the ragù, you prepare a bunch of asparagus two ways: Take a bunch of asparagus, trim and peel them, then boil, or better, steam them in lightly salted water until tender—not crisp tender or mushy, but fully tender. Cut off the tips and set them aside, and purée the remaining stems in a blender or food processor with a bit of béchamel sauce. Season the purée with salt to taste—it should be quite savory.
  2. Now assemble your lasagna just as you would classic lasagne: place a layer of pasta in a buttered baking dish, then a thin layer of béchamel, followed by a layer of asparagus purée, then place a few asparagus tips here and there, then sprinkle generously with grated parmesan cheese.
  3. Keep on layering in this way until you have used up your ingredients—or until you have laid down four or five layers of pasta. (This kind of lasagna should not be too thick.) Cover with a layer of béchamel, sprinkle with more grated parmesan and dot with butter.
  4. Bake in a hot oven (400F/200C) for about 20 minutes or so, until the top is lightly browned. Allow the dish to settle and cool for 10-15 minutes or more—see below—before serving.

Recipe for making fresh egg pasta: http://memoriediangelina.com/2009/09/11/how-to-make-fresh-egg-pasta

Recipe for making béchamel sauce: http://memoriediangelina.com/2010/02/08/how-to-make-bechamel-sauce/

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Frank FarielloLasagne agli asparagi (Asparagus Lasagna)

Comments

  1. Pingback: Lasagne agli spinaci (Spinach Lasagna) | Memorie di Angelina

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  4. Nuts about food

    I ended up making these the other evening for a dinner party and they were delicious! Thank you for the inspiration and have a great week end.

  5. Nuts about food

    I love lasagne and I love asparagus and realized that among the vegetarian lasagne I have made, I have never actually made these. I have a bunch in the fridge as I write… maybe a I can make a mini one…

  6. Claudia

    With asparagus! Not spinach! Oh this sings to my wishing-for-spring-loving-heart. On my agenda. Easter?

    1. Author
      Frank

      Sounds fine to me. :=) If you do decide to serve it for Easter, please let us know how your family likes it!

  7. Susan

    I adore this style lasagna. The less cheese the better when you have such wonderful ingredients. I wonder how an asparagus soufflé would fair between those light pasta sheets. See, I already changed the whole concept. Shame on me!!! Lol
    Such an inspiration, this blog is.
    Happy Spring, Frank

  8. Nancy/SpicieFoodie

    I had no idea asparagus lasagna existed — I must taste it! Asparagus is also one of my favourite springtime vegetables. Thanks for sharing, Frank!

  9. Steve

    This looks wonderful, I think it’s going to be the 1st course for my Easter dinner. One question, can a lasagna like this be assembled the day before and baked the next day, or would it be better to bake in advance and re-heat? Or is neither a good option.

    1. Author
      Frank

      That’s great, Steve! Do let us know how it turns out.

      A robust lasagna like Angelina’s lasagna di carnevale can be made ahead and re-heated—it’s even better that way. But, if you ask me, a delicate lasagna “bianca” like this one would suffer. Called “bianca” because there’s no ragù involved, as you can see, this kind of lasagna is basically just pasta baked with a béchamel sauce, flavored with a veg.

      If you’re cooking a major dinner and won’t have time to fuss at the last minute, I could see assembling the dish a few hours ahead of time, say in the morning for dinner, and baking it when you’re ready to eat. The thing to bear in mind when assembling a lasagna ahead is that the partially cooked pasta will tend to absorb the sauce over time as it sits, so use more sauce than you would otherwise or the lasagna will tend to turn out dry.

      That’s doubly true for a lasagna that is baked. It tends to ‘stiffen’ over time—that’s a good thing to a point, which is why you should always let lasagna rest for a few minutes before serving, so you can slice it—but only to a point. I’ve tried to reheat leftover lasagna in bianco the day after and, while it’s still edible of course, it’s as solid as a brick. And that robs you of one of the big pleasures of this dish, its creaminess.

      1. Steve

        Frank, thanks for the tips, all points taken! I know I can make the pasta the day before and freeze, but I’ll make everything else same day. BTW, your recipe doesn’t mention cooking the pasta before assembling, but from making many traditional lasagnas I’m assuming I’ll still boil them.

        1. Author
          Frank

          Right, yes, the pasta needs to be parboiled (unless you’re using no-cook pasta sheets. I’ve corrected the text—thanks for the catch.

  10. Josephine

    This looks spiffing, just spiffing! Good enough to eat (the photo on the screen I mean!!) … Bravo, another capolavoro!

  11. Frank

    @Robert: Your lasagna looks great. As noted you can really use just about any vegetable. The other day I made lasagne bianche with pipián (a zucchini-like Mexican vegetable) and tomato. More on the cool weather side, you can make lasagna with mushrooms, of course, or radicchio or or fennel or leeks or winter squashes or artichokes… the sky's the limit.

  12. Torres#9

    Egg roll..hmmm interesting..
    its great to try new things. when they don't work, you know never to use them again..but if they do, it's like giving your taste buds a new girlfriend!

    please feel free to share some of your thoughts on all things Italian at my blog

    http://bookcibo.ning.com/
    thanks!

  13. Robert

    We made this wonderful dish last night, using egg roll wrappers (great idea!!) For four people, we used one bundle of asparagus. Next time, we'll use even more asparagus. Thanks, Frank, for another GREAT suggestion.

  14. Torres#9

    my girlfriend cooked me up a real nice lasagna the other day. i wishhh she had put in some spinach to make it look like the picture. it was still good dont get me wrong, but i would love to try this. Great posts!!

    What other vegetables are recommended for lasagna that are good?…any suggestions?

  15. Mary

    Frank, this is a wonderful recipe. I love the tip about using egg roll wrappers. This is my first visit to your blog. I found you by chance and had intended only to say hello before moving on. I, instead, started reading your earlier posts and stayed far longer than I planned. I love your recipes and will be back as often as I can to see what else you've been cooking. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  16. Taste of Beirut

    This is the second time I see egg roll wrappers mentioned as a substitute for pasta and this time you have convinced me to give it a go! I have never seen this version of lasagne before and I love it! another thanks for this evening! I feel like I am going to come back frequently here; my great grandmother was from Trieste, and so my dad, aunt and grandmother lived with her and all speak fluent Italian (lucky them!) and adore pasta, fresh of course!

  17. Heatherfeather

    This just looks so amazing. I cook a lot of Italian dishes and I am finding so much inspiration here. I wish I could just dig into that asparagus.

  18. Silvia

    Gorgeous dish! I love lasagne in bianco with asparagus! my mom adds sausage and carciofi and it's one of my favorite dishes, I bet you had a delighful Sunday!

  19. Spicie Foodie

    We love asparagus and lasagna in my house. It's also my husbands favorite vegetable, so I think he'll love your recipe. Sounds like a perfect Spring dinner.

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