Monday, February 16, 2009

Asparagus Lasagna

Last Friday kicked off quite the weekend of cooking- I got to try out some new recipes and spend time with some of my wonderful friends and family! But after cooking three out of the past four days straight, I'm definitely ready for a breather- hence tonight's leftover spaghetti squash and tomato soup dinner. Leftovers, gotta love 'em.

But back to Friday, and the afore-mentioned new recipes. My friends Dana and Dave came over Friday to catch up, eat, and- exciting news- discuss my kitchen renovation plans!! I love my little condo, but the kitchen cabinets and counters are sadly stuck in the 80's. Hopefully with Dave's help, that will soon be an unpleasant memory and I'll have a great new kitchen.

Since I was working until 5:30 on Friday and my friends were arriving around 7:30, I had to plan my attack carefully. Thursday night, I paged through some of my go-to cookbooks and found Giada's recipe for asparagus lasagna, which sounded perfect- a classic with a twist that I could prepare right after work, then relax with my friends. I hate having friends over and then being chained to the kitchen sauteeing or assembling, so recipes which can be made ahead of time and just stuck in the oven are ideal.

(photo courtesy
but I promise, mine looked almost as pretty!)

This was fairly easy to assemble, and I love the idea of using a sun-dried tomato pesto instead of a typical marinara. Before making the Whole Foods run, I read some of the reader reviews for this recipe on, which indicated that dryness could be an issue with the noodles. I decided to substitute a can of diced tomatoes for one of the two recommended sun-dried tomato jars and was really happy with the result.

The only issue I had with this recipe is that although it calls for pancetta (yay! Italian bacon!), there's no indication what to do with the pancetta once you've sauteed and drained it. Oops! As a result, my lasagna was completely assembled before I realized the omission, so I just sprinkled it on top. It ended up being fine and probably helped get the pancetta pieces a little more crispy, but I may try adding it into the filling next time. I suppose we'll never know what Giada intended!

(Poor homeless pancetta!)

(Dear Giada, where does the
pancetta go?! Love, Dana)

So aside from these small issues, the preparation for this lasagna went smoothly. The ricotta cheese filling is mixed with sauteed chopped onions and asparagus, then layered with the sun-dried tomato pesto (sorry, no pics of that... operating both a food processor and a camera strains my meager technical abilities!), noodles, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese.

(asparagus filling prep)

(asparagus and onions sauteeing)

(Ooh... lasagna cross-section)

The final step is to dot the top with butter in preparation for baking, and from there I just wrapped the lasagna and let it hang out until we were ready for dinner. Happily, this was a first-time recipe that worked out beautifully- everyone loved it and impressively, the four of us were able to polish off the entire dish (and a few bottles of wine never hurt!). Maybe I'll make it next to break in my soon-to-be NEW kitchen!

(Pre-baking, assembled lasagna)


  • 9 lasagna sheets, fresh or dried
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
  • 2 (8.5 oz.) jars sun-dried tomatoes, drained (*or substitute one 12 oz. can of diced tomatoes, and their liquid)
  • 1 1/2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus 3/4 cup
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 (15 oz.) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes for dried pasta or 2 to 3 minutes for fresh pasta. Drain pasta.

In a food processor combine the sun-dried tomatoes and basil (and diced tomatoes if using). Pulse until the mixture is combined. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Set aside.

In a large skillet brown the pancetta until crisp. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, onion, and garlic and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the ricotta, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9 by 13-inch baking dish sprinkle some of the sun-dried tomato mixture on the bottom of the casserole dish. Place some lasagna sheets, then half asparagus mixture. Next sprinkle some mozzarella cheese and some of the remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan. Continue for 1 more layer. Top with lasagna sheets, some sun-dried tomato mixture, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Add pancetta to top and dot the top with butter. Bake until the ingredients are warm and the cheese is melted, about 25 minutes.

1 comment:

  1. Hey guys!
    How beautiful her story seems really lovely and very funny too. family cooking for the family is something I also really enjoy. information thanks for sharing.