So it’s April now. Late April, to be exact. And I haven’t posted in over a month. I’m sorry about that guys. Can I offer you this completely outstanding meal to make up for it?
I made it for a dear friend when I had her over for dinner. We first met when a mutual friend recommended her as my real estate agent. From the moment we met, we clicked. We talked and talked (and talked). It was great. I knew she would find me the right place to start my life over again in Texas. I just didn’t realize how hard she would work to make it perfect.
Throughout the home search, we talked and talked some more (see a theme?) and truly became friends. She even still liked me after I had her take me to my house three times before I made an offer. That’s dedication…and patience.
So when I had her over to show her all I’ve done with my little piece of Texas, I wanted to be sure dinner was just as perfect as the adorable little house she found for me. It was. The lasagna was full of spring flavor and was rich without being heavy–just perfect for the early spring evening I made it. While there were several steps to prepare the ingredients and assemble the dish, they were all pretty easy. The leftovers were great, too. I sent my sweet friend home with quite a lot of them because, even though I halved the recipe for us, it made plenty. Neither of us were that sad about it.
Lasagna with a springtime twist makes seasonal favorite asparagus the star of the show.
slightly adapted from Giada deLaurentiis, Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites
9 lasagna sheets, fresh or dried
1 TBSP plus 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 (8.5-oz.) jars sun-dried tomatoes, drained, oil reserved
1 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
1 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-in. pieces
1 (15-oz.) container ricotta cheese (I used part skim)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1 tsp. olive oil and pasta. Cook according to package directions until tender but firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, combine sun-dried tomatoes and basil in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is combined. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
3. In a large skillet, brown the pancetta until crisp, then remove using a slotted spoon. Add remaining olive oil, onion, and garlic to skillet and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add asparagus and cook until tender, 4-5 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a very large mixing bowl. Add the ricotta, salt, and black pepper, and stir to combine.
4. To assemble the lasagna, spread 1/2 sun-dried tomato mixture over the bottom of a deep lasagna pan. Place a layer of lasagna sheets on top and spread the noodles with half of the asparagus mixture. Sprinkle with a third of the mozzarella and 1/4 c. of the remaining Parmesan. Repeat twice more to complete three layers. Bake until the lasagna is heated through, 25-30 minutes. If desired, turn oven to broil for last few minutes to brown the cheese.
Yield: 10-12 servings