Nothing says love and comfort better than lasagna, and even more so this Lasagna "bianca" embellished with asparagus, peas, and mushrooms, and a creamy bechamel.
I don't know about you but when it comes to favorite dishes, special festive lunches, and Italian comfort food, lasagna is the bomb for me. The layers of pasta, nice and crispy on the edges. Filled in between with fresh savory ingredients, gooey cheese or bechamel sauce. These all mingling warm and flavorful. Bite after bite of delicious goodness. Then to our dismay, an empty plate. Sadness fills your being, but no worries, the world being our oyster, and thank god for second helpings, we can start all over again and enjoy this fabulous Lasagna "bianca" with Asparagus, Peas, and Mushrooms.
On the weekend we were doing our usually Saturday routine of The old Strathcona Farmers Market, and coffee with friends. Always a treat and highlight to the start of our weekends. Great place, wonderful people, and most amazing conversations of travel, memories, trends and food. Not forgetting the laughter and plenty of it I must say. I usually have sore laughing muscles. I really should work these out a bit more, lol. Now is the time to get some great asparagus. At the market there is a plentiful harvest to choose from especially from Edgar Farms. A quick stop at Mona Food also located at the market for some amazing mushrooms. A few other things to suffice our weekly menu and we are done.
Nicoletta and I have wanted to do a lasagna recipe for quite some time. Our thought were people enjoy it so much. We wanted to share a little of our true Italian heritage and bless our readers with a traditional lasagna recipe. One that graces the table at many festive meals. It was a battle between the regular tomato/ricotta sauce, thin crispy edged pasta layered with, fresh bocconcini and parmigiano melted with a mortadella surprise. Yes true lasagna ala Romana, and of course the contrast, maybe a white lasagna. Well having fresh organic seasonal asparagus, and mushrooms, along with some beautiful peas, which is among both mine and Nicoletta's favorite, we decided that a lasagna bianca would be the one to showcase and do justice to the beautiful produce we have.
At first I was a bit hesitant to make a lasagna without that melted fresh mozzarella. Nicoletta being wise in these matters quickly persuaded me to climb on board the white lasagna train and become acquainted with bechamel. A luxurious creamy, velvety, buttery, full of goodness sauce that was going to just be beautiful with the asparagus, peas, and mushrooms, making this lasagna bianca a dish that will take you to flavor heaven.
The Layers to Lasagna Heaven!
We did not make our own pasta this time, we wanted to use up some lasagna sheets we had in the pantry. Not as light and thin as the homemade ones, but cooked right, nice and al dente, and baked to that wonderful texture, gets us to where we need to be for this lasagna recipe. The asparagus nicely trimmed getting those tough fibrous parts out of the way, leaving us with that nicely steamed and sauteed, tender flavor, and slightly crisp texture which is going to be so good nestled in the pasta layers. The mushrooms, a mix of crimini, oyster, shiitake and enoki, sauteed with the garlic in a pan with a delectable olive oil, so flavorful. Yet another level added to this already amazing lasagna. The level of all levels, bechamel, butter melting in a pan, then a sprinkling of flour, composing the roux. Pour in the milk and cream and loving attention and stirring, bringing this bechamel to a creamy velvety consistency, combined with the veggies, freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, absolutely divine. This will add that beautiful level of flavor and texture to each layer of this Lasagna bianca. Off to the oven we go to get baked till it is warmed through and the edge of this wonderful dish gets all golden and crispy good. One important step is to let the lasagna sit for a bit to set up, ensuring the layers not to fall apart and plop on the plate.
The flavors of this lasagna so good. The pasta browned on the edges offering a nice crunch to a few bites. The middle of the pasta terrific with its al dente texture. The bechamel creamy buttery, nutty, mingling with the asparagus and peas and mushrooms. Layers upon layers of these flavors in each forkful leaving you wanting more and more scraping the last bit of sauce off the plate. If I wasn't so composed I would bring that plate to my lips and lick the remaining sauce off the plate. The best part is having it the next day, warming it up in the oven, not the MICROWAVE!, which will give you a lasagna more intense and delicious in flavor and not loose that crispiness that so many of us enjoy.
This Lasagna "bianca" with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms will definitely win hearts over. Classy and comforting in its appearance. A delicious feast for our taste buds and eyes. So, next time you are planning a dinner party, or even just a nice Sunday lunch, think of this recipe. You may truly fall in love.
From our kitchen to yours.
Song of the Day: "Bobcageon" by The Tragically Hip.
P.S. Love this song, has such a great feel to it.Print
- 10 5"x 6" dry lasagna pasta sheets
- 500 gr fresh organic asparagus
- 1 can of water packed peas
- 400 gr of mixed mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, enoki)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 scallion chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- 100 gr fresh grated parmigiano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 500 ml of 1% milk
- 2 Tbsp cream
- 50 ml salted butter
- 50 gr all purpose flour
- pinch of nutmeg
- Wash and cut of a couple inches off the stem of the asparagus.
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil, toss in asparagus and cook for 5 minutes.
- Drain and set aside to cool. Keep some of the water for later when you saute the asparagus and peas.
- In a saute pan drizzle in olive oil leaving some for the bechamel sauce.
- Bring to a medium to high heat and toss in garlic, mushrooms, and saute 10-15 minutes, till mushrooms are softened, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle in fresh parsley, toss well and set aside.
- Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces leaving tips intact.
- In another saute pan put in a pat of butter and toss in scallions, asparagus, and peas last as they were pre cooked, salt and pepper to taste. Also added a bit of the asparagus water to help keep the veggies moist and soft, cook for about 10 minutes.
- Take the tips of the asparagus out and set aside.
- Mix remaining asparagus and peas with the mushroom mixture. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and place a couple sheets at a time in as not to over crowd the pasta which will allow effective cooking for 8 minutes.
- Take out and place in a bowl of cold water, then onto a clean dry dish towel.
- Repeat this process till all the lasagna sheets are done.
- In a medium saute pan place in butter and as butter totally melts sprinkle in flour stirring constantly till mixture becomes a roux.
- Mix the milk and cream and slowly pour into pan, whisking constantly to keep mixture free of lumps, continue this till all the milk and cream is in.
- Dust in nutmeg and whisk again
- Continue stirring until bechamael develops a thicker consistency not too thick that it does not come off a spoon, but thick enough that it slowly slides off.
- Mix bechamel with asparagus, peas, and mushroom mixture, leaving just a bit to cover bottom of baking dish.
- Place the plain bechamel on the bottom of an oven proof casserole dish, 9"x 14" is what we used.
- Place two of the cooked lasagna sheets onto the bechamel sauce in the casserole dish.
- Put some of the bechamel and vegetable mixtures and spread evenly over pasta sheets.
- Dust generously with parmigiano.
- Next layer place lasagna sheets perpendicular to the last pasta sheets covering previous pasta layer seams.
- Repeat the same process of bechamel/vegetables mixture, and parmigiano.
- In this layer you may have to cut some of the sheets into strips to cover the last layer completely.
- When all lasagna sheets are used, top lasagna with remaining bechamel veggie mixture, and place the asparagus tips that you have set aside on top nice and evenly through out.
- Dust with remaining parmigiano, a nice drizzle of olive oil.
- Place in a pre heated 375° F oven middle rack and cook for about 25 minute or until you see the edges crisping up and turning a nice golden brown.
- Take out of oven and let rest for about 10 minutes then cut and serve.
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