This took some time, let’s be honest, but it is really worth it. This comes from Melissa Clark in NYTimes Cooking and it’s filling, delicious and beautiful. There’s a certain amount of prep work involved but that’s what makes this great. You can definitely rotate in new veggies and even meat if you want, but we went with the recipe as written and used spinach, asparagus and peas.
For this you’ll need: (for the Béchamel or white sauce): 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, 1/3 cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, 2 bay leaves, 2-4 garlic cloves (peeled and grated), 1/2 c grated parmesan, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, salt, pepper. (For the lasagna): 1 bunch asparagus (tough ends cuts off and then cut into 1″ pieces), 1 bag (or about 8 cups) fresh spinach leaves (stems cut off and roughly chopped), 1/2-1 cup frozen peas, 2 leeks (chopped, both white and green parts), 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, 1 lemon (zest & juice), 3-4 cups ricotta, 1-1/2 cups grated parmesan, 1 package lasagna noodles (oven ready worked well for us), 8 oz fresh mozzarella (sliced), several handfuls of fresh herbs (including oregano and basil, possibly some sage and thyme), salt, pepper, olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 400.
Start by making the Béchamel sauce. In a large sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the flour and whisk it together with the melted butter until well combined. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 mins until just starting to brown. Whisk in the milk a little at a time so that it stays smooth and doesn’t clump. Stir in some salt and pepper as well as the nutmeg and bay leaves. Let the sauce simmer over a low heat until thickened and reduced (it should be pourable but thickened). Turn off the heat and stir in the grated garlic and 1/2 cup parmesan.
While the Béchamel is cooking, start to create your layers. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and cooked until just softening, but still firm, and browning – about 3-5 mins. Season with some salt and pepper, turn off the heat and then add the frozen peas to the skillet. Toss everything together well and then transfer it all to a bowl. Add a handful of your chopped, fresh herbs and stir together well.
Add another 2 Tbsp oil to the same skillet, again over medium heat, and add the chopped leeks, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and some salt and cook until softened – about 5 mins. Add the spinach (working in batches if you have to), and cook until the greens are very tender and the skillet us dry and clean. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Transfer to another bowl, add a good handful of chopped fresh herbs and then combine the ricotta into the spinach/leek/herb mixture. Add another 1/2 cup parmesan to the ricotta mixture.
Grease a 9″ x 13″ high sided baking pan with some butter. Make sure you get in all of the edges and corners. Remove the bay leaves from the Béchamel and then spoon in enough white sauce to cover the bottom. Place a layer of lasagna noodles over the white sauce, breaking them in half in order to properly cover, and add another thin layer of white sauce over the top of the noodles so they are covered on both sides.
Now build the lasagna. Add 1/2 of the ricotta mixture and spread evenly from one side of the pan to the other, end to end. Add 1/2 of the asparagus/peas and spread evenly. Add some more white sauce to the top of this and then add another layer of noodles.
Repeat this same process again – ricotta/spinach then asparagus/peas, white sauce – but add a layer of sliced mozzarella to this second layer before adding the third layer of noodles to the top. Add the remaining white sauce over the top layer of noodles covering them all, sprinkle with another layer of chopped fresh herbs all around and then add a good sprinkling or grated parmesan over the top of everything.
Cover with foil and place into the pre-heated over and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 20-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let the whole thing stand for about 20 mins to settle before serving.