Asparagus Pesto Lasagna with Mushrooms

asparagus lasagna

After such a long and dreary winter, spring seems like even more of a treat this year than usual. Spending time outdoors is nearly impossible to resist. It's a time of renewal. Everything is so fresh and lush. The sunshine warming and pleasing to the body, mind and eyes. The fresh foliage and exploding blossoms and spring flowers are still displaying much of their earliest glory and new delights await.

And if you enjoy cooking and place great importance on making healthy and nourishing meals for yourself and your family, then the beginnings of locally harvested produce will stimulate your imagination and palate as will the future fruits of the upcoming seasons.

asparagus

One of the earliest crops here in southern Ontario is local asparagus. The season is rather too short for my liking, and for my husband too, who adores this unique and rather robust vegetable. It is true that you can pretty much get asparagus anytime of year where I live, but local produce has a freshness that simply cannot be matched. Each year I come up with new ways to serve this treasured veg and typically tend to go with simple pairings of classic flavors and dress it up with butter, olive oil, lemon and seasonings so the asparagus can shine in all its glory while it lasts.

In this instance, I wanted to experiment with a bolder combination and came up with an asparagus lasagna that features a sun-dried tomato and basil pesto that stars right alongside the asparagus. Mushrooms add some meaty texture and understated earthiness. The cheese mellows the dish out resulting in a complex yet synchronous layering of sensations, literally and figuratively, that you won't soon forget.

asparagus pesto lasagna

The inspiration for this comforting and luscious dish came from a recipe I stumbled across from Joanne Bruno. I will admit that I had never really thought of the idea of including asparagus in lasagna before, but after doing a bit of research and brainstorming, I revised the recipe, revised it yet again while cooking, and the result was even better than I imagined. It's an ideal spring recipe that is refreshing and really rather light and easily digestible despite the obvious cheesy component.


Asparagus Pesto Lasagna with MushroomsAsparagus Pesto Lasagna with Mushrooms
Recipe by
Adapted from Joanne Bruno
Cuisine: Italian
Published on May 13, 2013

Beautiful fresh-tasting home-cooked lasagna with creamy ricotta cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto and fresh spring asparagus

Print this recipePrint this recipe

Pesto:
  • 2 cups sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 jalapeƱo or 2 green chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small plum tomato, partially seeded and diced
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Lasagna:
  • 9 to 10 sheets of lasagna, fresh or dried
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 leeks, trimmed, and sliced into small rounds
  • 1 bunch (1 lb or 450 g) fresh asparagus, ends snapped off and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (reserve some of the tips for garnish)
  • 8 oz (225 g) button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups Fontina or mozzarella, grated
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
Instructions:
  • To prepare the pesto, start by soaking the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the soaking liquid. Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor and add the basil, jalapeƱo or chilies, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. Add some of the sun-dried tomato soaking liquid or water as necessary to achieve a smooth but fairly thick spreadable paste. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the chopped plum tomato and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

  • If using dried lasagna, cook until al dente in a large pot of salted water. Drain and rinse under cold water and set aside.

  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a large non-stick skillet. When hot, add the onion and leeks to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened. Now add the asparagus and continue to stir for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn up the heat slightly, add the mushrooms and continue to stir for another 3 to 4 minutes or until the mushrooms just begin to soften. Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl and toss with the ricotta and salt and pepper to taste.

  • Butter or grease a 13 × 9 inch baking dish and preheat an oven to 350°.

  • To assemble the lasagna, spread a thin layer of pesto over the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with lasagna sheets and then half of the asparagus-ricotta mixture, spreading it evenly over the pasta. Scatter 1/2 cup of the Fontina or mozzarella on top, along with a few sprinkles of Parmesan. Repeat, beginning by spreading about half of the remaining pesto over the asparagus cheese layer. Cover again with sheets of lasagna, spread the remaining asparagus-ricotta mixture, and scatter another 1/2 cup of the Fontina or mozzarella and a few more sprinkles of Parmesan. End by covering with sheets of lasagna sheets and covering with the remaining pesto overtop. Scatter the remaining Fontina or mozzarella and Parmesan over top, arrange the reserved asparagus tips, and sprinkle with the dried dill.

  • Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 or 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

  • Notes: To save time, the pesto can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. Using fresh pasta also cuts down on the cooking time and adds to the fresh flavor of this lasagna.

  • Jarred sun-dried tomatoes may be used instead of the dried ones if you drain well before adding to the pesto. Keep in mind that both dried and marinated sun-dried tomatoes often include salt, so take care when adding your seasoning so you don't get an unpleasant sodium kick. You want all of the flavors to shine and complement each other.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
vegetarian asparagus lasagna with pesto

More asparagus creations from Lisa's Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Asparagus Mimosa
Wild Rice and Asparagus Salad
Warm Baby Potato and Asparagus Salad
Asparagus Pesto Rice

On the top of the reading stack: various stacks

Audio Accompaniment: morning silence

5 comments:

bellini said...

We reap the benefits of your experimentation Lisa. It sounds delicious.

Preety said...

great combination of ingredients..love the lasagna recipe

Anonymous said...

If you use fresh pasta do you still boil it beforehand?

Lisa said...

No, if you are baking it, you don't need to cook it beforehand.

Joanne said...

I'm so glad you ended up liking the inclusion of asparagus in the lasagna! it's a fun way to make it more spring-like. :)