I flew back from London just in time for the Easter festivities. Or, should I say, the Easter banquet. We take our festivities very seriously, in Italy. Which means there is no festivity without a proper (read: gigantic) meal. And if you are lucky, there will be no festivity meal without a grandmother at the helm.
Now, the Italian grandmother is quite a number. She can cook food in astronomical quantities without a blink. Actually, she will insist she is “just” cooking some quick piece of meat. And some boiled veggies. And a salad. And a frittata, should someone want to avoid meat. And a pasta, because you just can’t start a meal with a secondo, can you? Of course the pasta will come with your choice of sauce, with or without tomato. And some soup, should the pasta be too filling. Then of course a little homemade dessert (usually crostata or tiramisu), but only because they are quickly made, no?
You get the point. I suspect the real truth behind all this is that grannies are really trying to kill us all so they can live in peace thereafter.
A taste of what an Italian grandmother considers “just” a dish is today’s recipe: we had to reverse engineer it because, as most home recipes, it goes by oral tradition. It actually is rather easy.
What you need:
- 500g fresh lasagna
- 700g green asparagus
- 1 small onion
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small branch of celery
- 500g homemade béchamel
Easy enough, but we’ll need an extra installment to explain how to make fresh lasagna. Egg pasta is a staple of Italian home food, and every grandmother makes it a point to make it herself. There is one exception: is a nearby pasta shop is run by a similarly aged lady whom grandmother really trusts. Then you may eat egg pasta from the shop. But beware, it’s only because granny doesn’t want to overdo things…
First, the sauce: these being green lasagna, we’ll have an asparagus sauce.
Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery, put in a pan with 2 spoonfuls of olive oil and some butter, and simmer until golden and soft.
Cut most of the white, harder part of the asparagus, boil them for 5 minutes, keep some, then toss the rest in the pan and simmer for 5 more minutes. Mix everything with a little milk, just enough to get a creamy sauce, like this:Now boil the lasagna, lay them flat on a towel to dry for a minute or two, then make one layer of lasagna, cover with some asparagus sauce, add a little béchamel, then repeat: lasagna, sauce, béchamel.
Make at least six layers. It’s no fun otherwise 🙂
Finish the topmost layer with béchamel, garnish with some grated parmesan and a few boiled asparagus you’ve kept.
Put in the oven for 25 minutes just before eating.