The Beer Lover's Table: Wild Garlic Pesto Lasagne with Ideal Day Path of the Sun Field Beer

Every year, I count down the grim late-winter days, waiting for one of the earliest signifiers of spring: the return of wild garlic season.

Much as Real Housewives of Clapton might mock that proclivity, I can’t help but feel a thrill when I first see those vivid leaves unfurling through the dirt, so fragrant and joyful in their bounty. To mark the start of the season this year, I made lasagne with wild garlic pesto.

Previously, I’d thought of lasagne as winter fare, hearty and heavy-duty, the culinary equivalent of a thick woollen jumper. It had never occurred to me that lasagne could have freshness, too. But then I stumbled upon a recipe by Rosie Mackean, inspired by Lasagne alla Portofino (a summery pesto lasagne from Liguria), which replaces basil with wild garlic.

This loosely adapted version is laced with vivid green wild garlic pesto. Because it’s still a chilly, transitional time of year, I’ve stuck with béchamel sauce rather than a lighter ricotta layer as a foil, making mine with a nutty base of brown butter and seasoning it with nutmeg, Dijon mustard and Parmigiano Reggiano for extra depth. I also used fresh egg lasagne sheets, far silkier than dried. The result is what I want to hunker down with on the sofa for as long as these almost-spring rains last.

I can’t think of a beer that’s a better fit for this dish, flavour- and ethos-wise, than Ideal Day Family Brewery’s Path of the Sun Field Beer. Based on a farm in Cornwall, Ideal Day produces rustic beers that transcend strict style parameters and are made with heritage and regeneratively grown grains (read more in Lily Waite’s excellent Pellicle profile). 

Path of the Sun, Ideal Day’s first bottle release, tastes like the British version of a saison, with a boldly ester-expressive fermentation profile; a round, honeyed character; and a piquantly bitter finish. Full enough to stand up to this lasagne’s potent garlic flavour, but biting enough to cut through its richness, this beer is itself a joyful celebration of growing things and seasonality. Together, they’re a perfect pairing for toasting spring’s impending arrival.

Wild Garlic Pesto Lasagne
Loosely adapted from Rosie Mackean
Serves 8-10

For the béchamel:
85g salted butter
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
85g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
800ml whole milk
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
25g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

For the wild garlic pesto:
150g wild garlic leaves (rinsed well)
50g basil leaves
100g pine nuts, toasted
50g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
100-150ml extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Small pinch caster sugar, to taste (optional)
2-3 tablespoons warm water (optional)

For the lasagne:
Approximately 600-700g fresh lasagne sheets (I got mine from La Tua Pasta; you can also make your own)
800g low-moisture cooking mozzarella, grated (I used Galbani’s Cucina Mozzarella)
100g pine nuts, toasted
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
100g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

1. First, make the béchamel. Place a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and add the butter. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the butter begins to brown; add the nutmeg and mix through. When the butter is a dark nutty brown, but before it burns, add the flour. Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the Dijon mustard to the roux and mix through, cooking for 1 minute more. Next, add ¼ of your milk. Stir or whisk vigorously to incorporate. Repeat, adding the milk in ¼ intervals, until it’s all incorporated, whisking to ensure the béchamel remains smooth.

3. Cook the béchamel for 5 minutes, stirring or whisking frequently, or until it has thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add additional nutmeg if preferred. Stir through the grated Parmigiano Reggiano until completely incorporated.

4. Transfer the bechamel to a large bowl and place a layer of cling film directly on its surface, which will prevent it forming a skin as it cools. Transfer to the fridge and leave to chill.

5. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Next, prep your pesto: To a food processor, add the wild garlic, basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano and 100ml extra virgin olive oil. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Blend on high until smoothly incorporated.

6. If the pesto is still looking quite thick – it should be thin enough to spread on the pasta layers, but not runny – add the additional 50ml extra virgin olive oil and blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed; add a pinch of sugar if it tastes a little bitter. Blend, adding a tablespoon or two of warm water if still quite thick. Once you’re happy with the flavour and consistency, set aside.

7. Next, assemble your lasagne (I used a relatively deep Pyrex baking dish that measured roughly 8” x 11”). Begin by adding a large spoonful or two of béchamel to the baking dish, so there’s just enough to coat the bottom; spread evenly. Next, place lasagne sheets on top of the béchamel; you may need to use scissors to cut them so they completely and evenly cover the base of the dish.

8. Make your first pesto layer: Spread ¼ of the prepared pesto over the lasagne sheets and cover with ⅕ of the grated mozzarella. Season with a pinch of flaky sea salt and black pepper, and sprinkle over ⅕ of the toasted pine nuts.

9. Next, cover your first pesto layer with another layer of lasagne sheets. Spread ¼ of the remaining bechamel evenly over the pasta.

10. Repeat, alternating pesto-mozzarella and béchamel layers, so you have a total of four pesto layers and four béchamel layers. The last bechamel layer is the top of the lasagne; instead of covering with an additional layer of pasta, sprinkle over the remaining ⅕ of the grated mozzarella and the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

11. Bake the lasagne for 30 minutes, or until bubbling, fully cooked through, and well-browned on top. (You may wish to turn on the grill five minutes before the end of cooking to help the top of the lasagne evenly brown.)

12. Remove the lasagne from the oven and sprinkle over the remaining toasted pine nuts. Leave to cool for around 20 minutes before serving.

Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus expert tasting notes, with 10 world-class beers like this one every month.