Recipe: Chicken and Asparagus Lasagna

I’m a bit bolognesed-out at the moment. I had a tad too much fun at my hairdresser (Wildilocks in West Melbourne – anyone who has seen my new “do” will understand the name) on Thursday night and consequently my appointment ran overtime by quite a bit, so my week’s set menu was tweaked a bit.

It was pretty late and the BF and I were ravenous (for food, get your mind out of the gutter) so we patrolled Lygon St in search of the best Italian ever. Trusty old Urbanspoon directed us to our first port of call, 400 Gradi. The reviews were glowing so I was feeling confident about it the food, despite the fact that I was feeling like a fish-out-of-water looking like a Harajuku girl with my new fluro-red locks and baby pink, fluffy, raver-style hat in the middle of a somewhat “posh” restaurant. The waiter was attentive and proptly handed me the menu, which I scanned and quickly notices lack-of parma or spag bol. Craving comforting Italian, I decided perhaps this place wasn’t right for me and hit the streets once again, letting my instincts guide me this time.

We found a cosy, little Italian joint down the road which even came with legit Nonno and Nonna, just to make the experience all that more authentic (even if a quick peek in the kitchen revealed an all-Asian lineup). I went with the unpredictable parma and spag bog combo, and as my order was being prepared eyed off the technicolour offering of gelati.

I am not sure what it is about spaghetti bolognese, but no matter how Italian the restaurant is, nothing ever seems to cut it compared to my family recipe. I am confident if an Italian tasted it they would probably have the same sentiments (that mine is better, that is). Jokes aside though, there is only so much bolognese a Ukrainian girl can handle so tonight I’ve opted for a lush, creamy chicken and asparagus version which is a nice twist on the original.

Chicken & Asparagus Lasagne
Serves 6
Recipe from Australian Good Taste

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 brown onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g chicken mince
250ml (1 cup) water
125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
100g butter
40g plain flour
1L (4 cups) milk
20g (1/4 cup) finely grated parmesan
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
250g packet dried lasagne sheets
100g fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated
1 bunch mini green asparagus (or normal size, halved lengthways)
2 tbsp pine nuts

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and stir for 4 mins or until soft. Add chicken and stir for 5 mins until browned. Add the wine, water, thyme and stock powder. Simmer for 5 mins until reduced slightly. Stir in the lemon rind and season.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over med-high heat until foaming. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 mins or until the mixture bubbles. Remove from heat. Gradually add the milk, stirring, until smooth. Cook over med-high heat, stirring, for 3 mins or until sauce thickens. Cook, whisking, for an additional 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in parmesan and nutmeg. Season. Set aside for 5 mins to thicken up slightly.

Preheat oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan). Place half the chicken mixture in the base of a 3L (12 cup) baking dish. Top with one third of the lasagne sheets and one third of the white sauce. Continue layering with remaining lasagne sheets and chicken mixture, finishing with the lasagne sheets. Top with remaining white sauce, mozzarella and asparagus. Place on a large baking tray and cover loosely with foil. Bake for 30 mins. Remove foil and sprinkle with pine nuts. Bake for a further 15 mins or until golden and cooked through. Set aside for 5 mins to cool slightly.

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