Pasta al Forno with Asparagus and Chard

This dish was the first-runner up for Valentine’s Day dinner. It was a Valentine’s Day bonus that I made it in addition to our celebratory biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie. Right? Why choose when you can have both? 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey. I increased the amount of vegetables, modified the baking temperature, and incorporated the garlic used to make the garlic oil. We could eat some sort of cheesy, veggie pasta every night of the week. Great!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the BĂ©chamel:

  • 5 T (70 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 T (20 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups (650 g) whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp (2 g) fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 g) freshly grated nutmeg

For the Pasta:

  • 2 T (24 g) coarse salt
  • 1 pound (454 g) penne or rigatoni
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound), large stems removed, cut into 1-inch ribbons
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 T (30 g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 batch bĂ©chamel, about 3 cups (recipe above)
  • 1 1/2 cups (130 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

To Make the BĂ©chamel:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is a light butterscotch color, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking continuously to keep lumps from forming.
  4. Continue to whisk and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and has the consistency of heavy cream.
  5. Pour the sauce into a bowl to cool.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil, add the salt, and cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.
  2. Drain the pasta well and spread it out over the surface of a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Heat the oven to 475, preferably on convection.
  4. Steam the chard and asparagus for 4 minutes, or until tender. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat, add the garlic, and cook for a minute or so, until it begins to sizzle. Lower the heat and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  6. Brush the inside of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with some of the garlic oil.
  7. In the pot that was used to cook the pasta, combine the cooled pasta, the garlic oil (including the garlic, if desired), the béchamel, half of the grated cheese, the steamed asparagus and chard. Stir until well incorporated.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and top with remaining cheese.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pasta begins to brown on top.

One Year Ago: Flattened Chicken Thighs with Roasted Lemon Slices

Two Years Ago: Meera Sodha’s Chicken Curry

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