Lasagna is like a sandwich: You can put anything between the layers and it’s still lasagna. In America, that tends to mean a supersize stack of tomato sauce, cheese, vegetables, what-have-you—with calorie counts and fat grams to match. (One top-rated online recipe has a staggering 1061 calories and 39 fat grams per serving!)
In Italy, however, lasagna is almost restrained by comparison, yet still delicious. A springtime lasagna might be delicately flavored with young artichokes, while in autumn, you’ll find layers of pasta mingling with woodsy fresh porcini and winter squash.
Our recipes follow the Italian model, and that makes it easy to lighten up this much-loved dish. By relying more on vegetables and slimmer sauces—and less on full-fat cheeses—lasagna sheds its excess fat in favor of something that is savored everywhere: flavor.
This recipe uses two popular Italian lasagna fillings: asparagus and pesto.
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided
6 Tbs. pesto*, or more to taste
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish, optional
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
1 1/4 lb. asparagus spears, tips cut off and reserved, spears trimmed and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 tsp.)
16 no-cook lasagna noodles (9 oz.)
2 cups shredded Fontina or part-skim mozzarella cheese (8 oz.), divided
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk flour and 1/2 cup milk in saucepan until smooth. Gradually whisk in remaining milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and boil 1 minute, or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in pesto, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Reserve 1 cup white sauce.
2. Warm oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped asparagus (not tips) and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic; cook, stirring, 1 minute, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
3. Coat 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place layer of noodles in dish, overlapping slightly. Layer with half of cooked asparagus, 3/4 cup Fontina and half of sauce. Add another layer of pasta, remaining sauce, remaining cooked asparagus and 3/4 cup Fontina. Top with layer of noodles, then with reserved 1 cup white sauce. Arrange reserved asparagus tips over top and sprinkle with remaining Fontina.
4. Bake, uncovered, 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes; serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
PER SERVING: 413 CAL; 21G PROT; 17G TOTAL FAT (8G SAT. FAT); 44G CARB; 44MG CHOL; 686MG SOD; 2.5G FIBER; 8G SUGARS