Friday, September 14, 2012

Asparagus Lasagna

Yay for our one-month anniversary dinner!  Austin’s favorite vegetable is asparagus, and I heart pasta, so when I saw this recipe from name of One Perfect Bite, it was an obvious choice for our dinner.   Unfortunately, I have a nasty problem of not reading recipes before deciding to make them.

Word to the wise-- when making this recipe, give yourself PLENTY OF TIME FOR PREP.  Before putting the lasagna in the oven, I was in the kitchen close to an hour.  I got home to make dinner after 7 pm, so we didn’t sit down for dinner until 9 pm :(

I would love to make this dinner again on a Sunday afternoon, with plenty of time to enjoy cooking the meal.  There was some terms thrown around in this recipe that I had never heard of like bechamel.  I learned that it is basically a white sauce with a fancy name...moral of the story, it’s tasty.  Asparagus lasagna is yummy!!!  A+ for this recipe.

We paired it with sparkling wine (aka champagne) from Chandon in Napa Valley- we went there in 2009 via the Napa Wine Train and saved it for a special occasion.  I think a one-month wedding anniversary was a good reason to pop that cork :)

Asparagus Lasagna

2 large garlic cloves, peeled
salt for boiling pasta
2 pounds asparagus 
1 olive oil béchamel (see below)
about 1 cup Parmesan
Sprinkling of herbs, tarragon, parsley, basil, and oregano
1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles

Fill a pot with water and add garlic cloves.  Bring to boil.  As the water boils, break off ends of asparagus and save ends.  Add ends to boiling water along with salt.  Reduce heat to medium low, partially cover, and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove asparagus ends and garlic cloves from water and discard. Bring water back to a boil, and add asparagus stalks. Boil thick asparagus stalks for five minutes.  Transfer them, using tongs, to a bowl of ice water. Do not drain cooking water. Allow asparagus to cool for a few minutes, then drain and dry on a clean kitchen towel. Cut all asparagus into 1-inch lengths. Set aside.

While asparagus is boiling, start  béchamel!

Whisk 1/2 cup of cooking water from asparagus into béchamel, along with 1/4 cup of Parmesan and herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spray cooking spray on 3-quart baking dish. Bring water back to a rolling boil, and drop in enough lasagna noodles to cover surface of the baking dish (3-4 lasagna noodles). Boil just until pasta is flexible (about three minutes for no-boil lasagna). 

Spread thin layer of béchamel over bottom of baking dish. Cover with a layer of pasta. Stir asparagus into remaining béchamel, and spread a layer over noodles. Sprinkle on 2 tablespoons Parmesan. 

Repeat with parboiling pasta,  béchamel  and asparagus, and cheese.  End with a layer of pasta, and if you have any béchamel left, spread it over the top and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle 1 tbs of olive oil over lasagna, and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbling. Uncover, and continue to bake until top just begins to color, about 10 minutes. 

Olive Oil Béchamel 
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil 
2 tbs finely chopped onion
2 tbs flour 
2 cups skim milk 
Salt and pepper to taste 

Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add onion, and cook for about three minutes. Stir in flour, stirring, for about three minutes until smooth and bubbling but not browned. Whisk in milk all at once, and whisk until mixture begins to thicken. Turn heat to low, and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping bottom and edges of pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 minutes, until sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves six.

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