I’ve been staring at this photo in the latest issue of Bon Appetit for days now:
Spring veggies. Goat cheese. How can you go wrong? You can’t – especially when you take it one level further and make it a casserole. Read on for the recipe and an image of my very own.
I’m filing this under ‘Winged it’ because, like so much of what I cook, I didn’t start with a real plan. I just knew I wanted that dip and that I wanted it in a casserole format. I also knew that I had on hand a bunch of asparagus, some leftover brussels sprouts that I’d blanched a few days earlier, and the dregs of a container of goat cheese crumbles. Between those and the things I try to always to keep in the pantry, I was pretty well-placed to make 0ne hell of a divine vegetarian meal. What follows is the closest approximation of the actual amounts and steps taken that my memory will allow.
- 1 bunch asparagus (ends snapped off)
- 1 cup brussels sprouts (trimmed, sliced in half)
- ~ ½ box soup pasta or elbows
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 med sweet onion, diced
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup chopped spring (green) onion
- ¼ chopped fresh parsley
- 2-4 tbsp lemon rind
- ~4oz. Crumbled goat cheese
- ~ ½ – 1cup Grated romano or pecorino
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- ~ 1 cup panko (or fresh bread crumbs)
First, wash and chop all of your veggies. Snap the ends off the asparagus and cut the stalks into 2-3 inch pieces. Chop the stems off the bottom of the sprouts and slice each into halves or quarters. Dice the onion and roughly chop both the green onion and parsley. Measure out your milk and take the cheese out of the fridge – you don’t want these to be cold when you add them to the pot to make your sauce!
Second, put a pot of water on the stove on high; once it starts to bubble, add some salt to get it boiling. When the water boils, add in the asparagus and sprouts and boil for a about a minute, then remove them and rinse with cold water until they stop steaming. Return the pot to the stove and prepare the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Third, put a medium sized pot on the stove over med-high heat. Add the butter. Once the butter melts and froths, add your onion (just the sweet, not the green). Cook for a few minutes, then add in the flour and stir. (From this point on, just keep stirring and DON’T EVER STOP. Seriously. Don’t even THINK about stopping.) Cook the onions and flour for a few minutes more, then pour in the milk. Add the green onions, parsley, and lemon rind. Keep cooking until the mixture thickens and becomes saucy.
Fourth, remove the pan from heat. Add in the goat cheese and stir to combine. Add in the romano and stir to combine. Finally, season to taste with salt & pepper.
Fifth, set your oven to 350°F. In a casserole dish (ceramics or pyrex work best here – no metal), make a base layer with most of the pasta; add a layer of veggies on top of the pasta; add the remaining pasta. Then, pour that delicious, creamy, silky-smooth cheese sauce over it all and make sure everything is covered. Then, sprinkle the panko and more romano over the top. Add a few little cubes of butter sporadically, if you’re into that sort of thing (it will help the topping brown and be crunchy). Cover with a lid or with aluminum foil, and pop into the oven.
I cooked mine for about 20 minutes with the lid on, then about 10-15 more with the lid off. You can tell it’s done when the cheese is bubbly, the top is golden-brown, and your house smells like the most amazing combination of fresh spring veggies and cheese imaginable.
Here’s how it looked after Dan and I devoured 2 pieces: