Cheesy Spinach-Asparagus Lasagna with Basil Cream Sauce
Last week in DC, the highs were in the mid-50s. THE MID-50s! I am of good, upstate New York stock, but I’ve lived in DC for a year and I’m weak, so sue me (but don’t really, because I know a lot of good lawyers now that I’m in law school). It was freezing, and I am officially taking that cold spell as the green light for all things casserole.
This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, since I was posting oven-based recipes in the middle of July, but I have a serious love affair going on with my oven. You know what’s better than regular tomatoes? Oven-roasted tomatoes. Want to improve your grapes? Roast ’em in the oven. Feeling like something warm and cozy on a chilly night? Look no further than the nearest casserole recipe. Say what you will about being a ’50s housewife (and there is a LOT you could say, I know), but they were on to something with casseroles. They’re classic and delicious, and can be put together in advance so all you have to do when you’re ready for dinner is pop them in the oven. Which in this student’s opinion is the best part.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “But lasagna isn’t a casserole…” And you’re right. But it’s warm, you can make it in advance, and you bake it in the same dish. So I’m counting it, because I feel like waxing rhapsodic about casseroles and you’re getting a yummy lasagna recipe out of it. So let’s just agree not to dwell on that little detail, shall we?
This lasagna has been my best friend this week. I came down with a nasty cold this weekend, and am still very much feeling it (I promise I let my NyQuil fog wear off before writing this post). I made this lasagna Sunday and we’ve been eating it every night since– I think we *might* finish it tonight, 4 dinners later. Since it’s a lasagna, it’s a bit work-intensive, but the payoff is a) delicious and b) you’ll probably get multiple meals out of it, unless you have a HUGE family or are Garfield.
Green veggies are the star of this lasagna, with a basil-lemon cream sauce playing a supporting role (somebody give that sauce an Oscar!). If I made it again, I’d cut the amount of sauce in half. It makes a TON, and while leftovers would definitely work for pasta dishes, etc., you’re going to be eating lasagna for days anyway so you don’t really need it. I also didn’t have any “Italian Blend” cheese, so I just used mozzarella for that. And I used bacon as a substitute for the pancetta because I shop at Giant and not a schmancy store, but you could also cut meat out of the lasagna entirely– it’s definitely not central to the flavors of the dish.
Cheesy Spinach-Asparagus Lasagna with Basil Cream Sauce (original recipe here)
- Summer Basil Cream Sauce (recipe below)
- 12 Lasagna Noodles, cooked according to package directions
- 4 c. Baby Spinach
- 2 1/2 c. Ricotta
- 1 1/2 c. shredded Mozzarella
- 1 3/4 c. shredded Italian 4-Cheese Blend (any melty cheese will do)
- 12 oz. Asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces and blanched
- 8 oz. Pancetta or Bacon, diced small and cooked til crisp (optional)
- 2 T. fresh Basil for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil to place the lasagna pan onto to avoid dripping.
Using a 12″ x 9″ baking dish, add about 1 c. of the cream sauce to the bottom of the dish as a coating, and then layer 4 of the cooked lasagna noodles over top of the sauce. Next, add 1 c. sauce to the noodles and spread evenly. Then add 2 c. baby spinach leaves and then 1 ¼ c. ricotta in small, even dollops over top. Next, add ½ c. mozzarella and ¼ c. four-cheese blend, and then about half of your asparagus pieces and half the pancetta. Repeat the layering process by adding another 4 cooked lasagna noodles over this, and press down gently to compact it a little bit; then add another 1 c. sauce, 2 c. baby spinach leaves, 1 ¼ c. ricotta cheese, ½ c. mozzarella, ¼ c. four-cheese blend, the remaining asparagus pieces, and the remaining pancetta. Finally, add the 4 remaining cooked lasagna noodles over top, pressing down again to compact the lasagna, and add 1 c. sauce, the remaining ½ c. mozzarella and remaining 1 ¼ c. four-cheese blend.
Place the lasagna on the foil-lined baking sheet and bake uncovered for 30 min or til golden-brown and bubbly. Remove from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Basil Cream Sauce
- 8 c. low-fat Milk
- 4 cloves Garlic, finely minced
- 2 t. Salt
- 1 T. Italian Seasoning (I just use a mix of Basil and Oregano)
- 1/4 t. Black Pepper
- 4 oz. Flour
- 4 oz. unsweetened Butter
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan
- 2 t. Lemon Zest
- 2 T. Lemon Juice
- 1 c. fresh Basil, finely chopped
Melt butter in medium pot over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook about 1 min, til fragrant. Add flour and whisk to create a roux. Add milk, salt, Italian seasoning, and pepper, whisking continuously to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer, whisking occasionally til thick (5-10 min). Turn off heat and whisk in basil, lemon zest and juice, and Parmesan. Can be made in advance and reheated when needed.
Eating ANYthing four days in a row can get a little tedious. But I just ate this and you know what? There are a lot of things in life that are worse than eating this lasagna again. I mean, look at it. Hel-lo. Next time I make this you’re all invited to share. I’ll need the help eating it!