Lasagna terrifies me.
For years, I dreamed of re-creating the Italian comfort classic in my kitchen, but I was always scared off by the many potential pitfalls. It’s too dry. It’s too soupy. The noodles are undercooked. The noodles are mush. The noodles are stuck together in a giant starch-bomb. Who are these kitchen acrobats willing to walk the cheesy Cirque du Soleil tight-rope of perfectly baked lasagna?
Well, I know of one lasagna superhero, and she’s been the greatest deterrent of all to my taking on lasagna. It’s my mom. She makes lasagna once a year for Christmas dinner, and it’s outstanding. Her take on the classic lasagna is hearty and packed with flavor, and it comes out perfectly every time.
I just can’t compete with that. It seemed pointless to attempt a classic lasagna knowing it would never measure up to Mom’s. So I decided the only way I could bake a lasagna that didn’t leave me feeling dead inside would be to take it in an entirely different direction.
I knew I wanted to nix the traditional red meat sauce and use a béchamel punched up with tangy goat cheese instead. Then I held a series of vigorous auditions in the produce department, and after much deliberation, ultimately cast asparagus, lemon, and thyme as the leads. Diced, sautéed pancetta plays a salty, supporting role. (Sorry, I’m watching the Oscars.)
The resulting lasagna is almost as delicious as Mom’s, but could not be more different. It’s really the perfect dinner for a late February evening, when I’m still craving winter’s creamy comfort foods, but I’m ready for bright, fresh flavors. The tender asparagus and sunshiny lemon zest reach out from under a velvet blanket of cheese and pasta to invite springtime to stay for dinner.
Continue reading for the Asparagus Lasagna with Pancetta, Goat Cheese, and Lemon recipe