Spring Lasagna with Asparagus and Peas; Pea & Mint Pesto

Serves 6

From  The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation


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Greenness, noodles, cheese: my kind of trifecta. This qualifies as the lightest lasagna ever.

Ideally, you'll be making your own Pea & Mint Pesto (recipe follows) ahead of time. And if you don't get around to this, no worries. Just use your favorite basil pesto, homemade or otherwise. All good!


4 or more tablespoons olive oil

Eight lasagna noodles (2 1/4-inch wide)

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup green peas, freshly shelled or frozen 

1 cup shelled, peeled fresh fava beans (optional)

1/2 pound sugar snap peas, halved lengthwise

1 pound ricotta, preferably whole milk

1 packed cup chopped or shredded mozzarella

2 teaspoons minced or crushed garlic

About 1/4 teaspoon salt

Black pepper

1 cup Pea & Mint Pesto (recipe follows) or any green pesto

1/3 cup shredded Parmesan


Pea & Mint Pesto

1/2 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 heaping cup green peas, freshly shelled or frozen

1 packed cup fresh mint leaves

2 slender scallions, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

About 3 tablespoons milk, half-and-half, cream, or vegetable stock


    1. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slick a 9-by-13-inch pan with a little olive oil. Lay out two kitchen towels.

    2. Add the noodles to the boiling water, swishing gently so they don't stick. Boil 2 minutes, then add the asparagus, fresh peas and favas. (For frozen peas, just place them in a colander in the sink.) Boil 1 minute. Add sugar snap peas and boil 1 minute more. Drain into a colander (directly over the frozen peas, if using). Using tongs, immediately lift out 4 noodles and place them in the pan in a single layer. Place the other noodles on a towel in a single layer. Leave vegetables in the colander.

    3. Run cold water over the vegetables until they are cool. Transfer them to the other kitchen towel and pat dry.

    4. Combine the ricotta and mozzarella in a bowl. Place 2 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic in a small microwave-safe bowl, cover and zap for 30 seconds; stir it into the ricotta. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

    5. To assemble the lasagna, spread half the pesto over the noodles in the pan. Spoon half the ricotta mixture here and there over the pesto, trying to get it fairly evenly distributed. There will be gaps. Scatter half the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with a little more than half the Parmesan. Top with remaining noodles and repeat the layers, ending with a light scattering of Parmesan.

    6. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until heated through and lightly golden.


    Pea-and-Mint Pesto

    Makes about a cup

    If using freshly shucked peas, steam them for 5 minutes or until just tender and very bright. Rinse frozen peas in tap water for a few minutes to defrost, then drain and dry them.


    1. Combine garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small microwave-safe bowl, custard cup, or teacup. Cover and zap for 15 seconds. 

    2. Combine the peas, garlic & oil, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, mint, scallions and salt in a food processor. Process until smooth, adding milk, a tablespoon at a time, as needed. When it reaches the desired texture, taste to see if it needs more salt. Refrigerate in a tightly covered container up to 3 days. (If you don't use it right away, the surface might look dull, but everything underneath will remain the original green. Just mix everything back together.)

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