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Ottavia’s Spelt Lasagne with Asparagus and Rocket Pesto

At the start of asparagus season, we started looking around for our favourite recipes - and this one absolutely makes that list! Ottavia is brilliant with fresh pasta and one of our most popular guest chefs

Spelt gives this dish a rustic appeal and the asparagus flavour shines through. Ottavia notes that you shouldn't bury the lasagne under too much sauce but allow the different elements of the dish to blend harmoniously. Enjoy!

Ottavia's Spelt Lasagne with Asparagus and Rocket Pesto

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

Pasta

  • spelt white flour 150g
  • fine durum wheat flour 60g
  • eggs 2 medium

Pesto

  • basil leaves 40g
  • wild rocket leaves 30g (when in season you can use wild garlic leaves instead)
  • sea salt, coarse or sea salt flakes
  • garlic cloves 2-3
  • extra virgin olive oil ½ cup
  • pine nuts 1 tbsp (preferably Italian)
  • parmesan cheese 6 tbsp, grated
  • pecorino cheese 2 tbsp, grated

Béchamel Sauce

  • unsalted butter 40 g
  • plain white flour 40 g
  • whole milk 600 g
  • salt and white pepper
  • nutmeg a pinch (ground)
  • asparagus 400g (cleaned weight)
  • unsalted butter 50g
  • mozzarella 125g (roughly chopped)
  • parmesan cheese (grated)

Method:

Pesto

  1. Clean the basil leaves and rocket lightly with a cloth. Place them in the bowl of a liquidizer. 
  2. In a small mortar, crush the coarse sea salt with the garlic cloves.
  3. Add half the olive oil and begin to zap the leaves in short bursts. After each one, let the leaves settle to the bottom of the liquidizer’s bowl, helping with the handle of a wooden spoon. 
  4. When the leaves are almost done, add the pine kernels and the garlic-salt paste. Zap again until amalgamated, adding more oil if needed. 
  5. Add the grated cheeses and zap once more until the pesto comes together then set aside. Do not overdo it, coarse is best!

Béchamel Sauce and Asparagus

  1. Heat the milk in a small pan to near boiling point. In another pan place the butter and on low heat melt it. Once melted add the flour all at once. Mix well and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Away from the heat add the warm milk to the pan mixing rapidly with a hand whisk or a wooden spoon. Return to the heat and bring to the boil. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes, then season with salt, white pepper and a dusting of nutmeg and leave to cool.
  3. In the meantime, snap the ends off the asparagus spears then slice them diagonally starting from the ends into 2 cm pieces. Leave the tips whole or slice vertically in half if thick.
  4. In a large frying pan melt the butter on medium heat. Once the butter has melted add the asparagus stalks; toss them around until just cooked adding the spears at the last minute. Season with salt and pepper then add the chopped parsley. Set aside until needed.

Lasagne

  1. Make the pasta dough using spelt flour the usual way and place in the fridge to rest.
  2. After the resting time, lightly dust with flour the table top. Take the dough and begin to roll in a round shape using a rolling pin. Roll until it reaches the desired thickness. Alternatively, roll until it reaches the thickness of the wider setting of a pasta machine. Cut a strip of pasta to fit the width of the machine. Make sure not to squeeze the pasta with the rolls, but gently stretch it as you would with the rolling pin. Reach the desired thickness by going from one setting to the next in sequence.
  3. Cut rectangles of sfoglia approximately 12 X 25 cm to fit an oven tray 25 X 35 cm. Bring a large pan of water to the boil then add a small handful of coarse sea salt. Have a bowl of cold water lightly salted with fine sea salt ready to one side and a clean tea towel at the ready. When the water is boiling reduce to a simmer and carefully lower the lasagne, a few at a time. Cook until they surface then take them out and put them in the cold water bowl to cool. Fish the pasta out of the cold water and place them on the tea towel and dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200oC – gas mark 6. Lightly butter the oven tray, spoon a little of the pesto on the bottom then cover with pasta. Spoon a small amount of pesto on the pasta sheets then spoon some béchamel sauce onto it. Alternatively mix the pesto into the béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and a little mozzarella then cover with more pasta sheets then repeat adding pesto and béchamel on top of the pasta sheets followed by parmesan and mozzarella. Reach the top of the oven dish finishing with pasta which will cook in the oven becoming crunchy; it makes a lovely texture contrast to the soft and smooth centre of the dish.
  5. Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes until warmed through. Take out of the oven and leave to rest for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

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