Happy Easter everyone! I thought this white asparagus lasagne was going to be good, but it turned out even better than I expected and I am most definitely making this again. The secret to this lasagne is that the white sauce is made from asparagus stock, thus boosting the asparagus flavor. With velvety pasta, tender yet crunchy asparagus, tangy goat cheese, luscious white sauce and a crispy top, what else is there to wish for?
You could also make this with green asparagus, but the flavor and texture will not be as elegant and the color not as pretty. So use white asparagus if you can find them — which are actually the more easily available variety here during the asparagus season.
For 4 servings as primo piatto (20 cm/8 inch square dish)
600 grams (1.3 lbs) white asparagus
225 grams (.5 lb) goat cheese, preferably aged for more flavor
fresh pasta dough from 2 eggs and about 200 grams (1 1/3 cup) Italian 00 flour
white sauce from 250 ml (1 cup) milk, 250 ml (1 cup) reduced asparagus stock, 50 grams (1/3 cup) flour, and 50 grams (3 1/2 Tbsp) butter
salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 Tbsp breadcrumbs
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
butter for the dish
Peel the asparagus and trim 1 cm (1/2 inch) from the bottom. Save the trimmings and peels.
If using green asparagus, there is no need to peel them, but you need to cut off more from the bottom.
Put the asparagus trimmings and peels in a pressure cooker or stock pot and barely cover with water.
Pressure cook for 1 hour or bring to a boil and allow to simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
Filter the asparagus stock into a wide pan.
Using a clean dish cloth, squeeze out as much liquid from the asparagus trimmings and peels as you can, and add to the asparagus stock.
Bring this to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and allow to reduce to 250 ml (1 cup).
Chop the cleaned asparagus into 1 cm (1/2 inch) slices, saving 4 tips as garnish.
Season the asparagus with salt and freshly ground white pepper, and vacuum seal. Cook sous-vide for 45 minutes at 85C/185F.
Instead of sous-vide, you could also steam the asparagus until tender but firm to the bite, 15 to 20 minutes. Or boil them in the asparagus stock. That way you will lose some of the flavor, but at least it will still end up in the lasagne.
When the asparagus stock has been reduced to 250 ml (1 cup), add 250 ml (1 cup) milk, and heat it up (but do not allow it to boil).
Make a white sauce according to my instructions.
Season the white sauce to taste with salt and freshly ground white pepper.
If you cooked the asparagus sous-vide, strain the liquid from the bag into the white sauce. We don’t want any flavor to go to waste!
Roll out the fresh pasta dough and cut it into 4 sheets that are slightly smaller than your lasagne dish (as they will expand during cooking), and parboil the sheets for 30 seconds in salted water. Plunge them in cold water to stop the cooking, and spread them out on a dish cloth to dry. Spread them out with your hands to remove any wrinkles.
Remove the outer rind from the goat cheese. Do this thinly, because there is a lot of flavor right underneath.
Butter a 20 cm (8 inch) square oven-proof dish.
Trim the sheets such that they are the size of the dish. Put the first sheet in the bottom of the dish.
Cover with 1/3 of the asparagus and 1/4 of the goat cheese.
Cover with 1/4 of the white sauce and sprinkle with freshly grated parmigiano.
Put another sheet of dough and continue with two more identical layers.
After the final sheet you should have 1/4 of the goat cheese and 1/4 of the white sauce left. Combine them and stir over low heat until the cheese has melted. Pour this mixture on top of the sheet…
…and spread it out. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmigiano.
Finally, sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Bake the lasagne at 200C/400F until the top is golden and the lasagne bubbles, about 30 minutes.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before cutting into the lasagne.
Cut into quarters to serve, garnishing each serving with an asparagus tip.
This is great with Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, or another dry Sauvignon Blanc in a mineral style (i.e. not a passion fruit bomb from Marlborough).
I had Taiwanese stir-fried shrimp with black beans for the first time in Taiwan, where they had been swimming in a tank until I ordered them for lunch. I had been looking forward to returning to that same restaurant for another portion, but alas the pandemic got in the way of our trip. I can’t wait for this to be over so we can go to Taiwan again.