Spring is the redeeming quality of Minnesota. Our typical winters seem to start in September and go on through May. Admittedly this last Winter was surprisingly mild, but Spring was still a welcome change. I love to see the trees budding and tulips flowering and crazy as it may seem, I look forward to the first time I get to mow the lawn again too!
My favorite part though is planting our garden and watching the herbs and vegetables start to come up. The strawberries and asparagus come back on their own each year and we get the peas, onions and some of the herbs off to an early start. We’ll have to wait a few months before we can start enjoying our own produce but luckily there are some other farms around here that get things off to an early start too. Some of my favorite things I love to see start popping up in the markets include asparagus and leeks.
It’s also Morel season in Minnesota if you’re lucky enough to be able to find some. Morels are a rare, elusive mushroom that typically pops up for just a few weeks in the spring. They have a wonderful nutty flavor and are a prized find among foragers. I did some mushroom hunting late last summer but it was already beyond the morel season. A few weeks ago I heard some chatter about Morels and also saw that they were starting to show up in markets so last week I went out with my wife to see if we could discover some morels. We didn’t spot any on this trip but we’re going to keep looking!
Luckily we also had some dried morels from Marx Foods so we decided to celebrate anyway and made this amazing Lasagna featuring all of our favorite Spring vegetables. It has the intense nuttiness of the morel, the crisp of fresh asparagus and then the mild onion flavor of the leeks.
Morel and Asparagus Lasagna
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 ounce dried morels or 4 ounces fresh morels, coarsely chopped
- 1 lb mild Italian sausage
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
- 1 pound thick asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 1 9-ounce package no-cook lasagna noodles (12 noodles)
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
In a saucepan, heat cream until it just starts to simmer. Add the dried morels and let sit until they are softened, about 30 minutes. Strain the morels, reserving the cream and coarsely chop the morels.
In a separate saucepan, cook the sausage until cooked through, Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage, reserving any grease in the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, add the leeks and cook just until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Add additional olive oil to the pan, add the asparagus, mushrooms and thyme. Cook until asparagus is crisp-tender about 4 minutes. Remove from pan and combine with the leeks, set aside. In a large saucepan, add the cream that the mushrooms were softened in, the chicken stock and bay leaf. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes until it thickens slightly. In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch together with 1/4 cup of water and then whisk into the cream mixture and boil until the mixture thickens about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg. Remove the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a greased 9×13 pan, cover the bottom with 3/4 cup of the sauce. Place a layer of noodles over the top of the sauce, covering the entire bottom of the pan. Sprinkle 1 cup of the vegetables, 1/2 cup of the sausage, 1/2 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup of ricotta over the noodles. Pour 1/2 cup of the sauce over the cheese. Repeat the layering, ending with sauce and cheese layer. Cover tightly with foil.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until the cheese is browned and bubbly about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
Disclaimer: Marx Foods sent me a sample of dried morels for this recipe but I received no other compensation. All opinions are my own.
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I am sure you love food. Otherwise, you won’t be here. As a full-time and a part-time chef at a local restaurant, I know my way around food. Ever since I was a young girl, I enjoyed helping my mom in the kitchen.
We would often experiment with the spices, ingredients, and flavors and create great meals for my brothers and dad. Since cocking was my first passion, I decided to go in that direction. I finished culinary school, got my first job, and started developing my skills.
Later when kids came, I had all the liberty in the kitchen to combine some of the unique flavors. A lot of them were a success, but now and there I would make a couple of mistakes.