Wild garlic lasagne

The short wild garlic season is underway. Put these wild greens to good use in this decadent lasagne made with wild garlic pesto


Serves 6

Preparation time 40 minutes

Cooking time 35 minutes

Welcome to What Christy Cooked – a column where I impart culinary wisdom, a cracking recipe and hopefully a wee giggle with it. Firstly, some ground rules: we don't take ourselves too seriously. It's a place for feel-good food, first-times and full bellies. Cooking is my biggest source of joy, and I firmly believe a problem shared is a problem halved, and when discussed over a hot bowl of food, it's quartered. Welcome to episode one: wild garlic lasagne.

I live off the Old Kent Road in Peckham with a view of Lidl from my bedroom window and a behemoth industrial estate at my fingertips. And, while it's nice to know I'm moments from a B&Q and Pets at Home should I need a hammer or a hamster, you might say I'm a little divorced from nature. But, when March rolls in with its verdant thaw, we are no longer so separate, for that's when wild garlic season commences.

It's a time when I hoist up my tracksuit bottoms, don my Birkenstock clogs and power to the local park to harvest these garlicky blades of goodness. In true London style, you'll find them growing in thick emerald carpets under shady nooks, sharing space with dog piss, cigarette butts and empty crisp packets.

Once scrupulously washed, these garlicky leaves form a cornerstone for delicious spring cookery. They have a more subtle flavour than your bog-standard bulbs of garlic, so they innately lend themselves to quick and uncomplicated recipes. Pesto is a natural home for these leaves and makes a gentler version than a classic Genovese, which uses raw garlic cloves.

An impressive use for said pesto is a lasagne alla Portofino, or pesto lasagne – something I first saw Rosie Mackean (the pasta queen) do, and I've been making it every year since. My stance is that when you lasagne, you lasagne hard. If your third helping does not sedate you, you're not doing it right. In any case, this calls for a cheesy bechamel. I like to use aged, nutty cheese like comté, gouda or vintage cheddar, but these are optional if you fear fromage. Should you choose to make this recipe outside of wild garlic season, simply swap the leaves for a few handfuls of rocket and a clove of raw garlic. Schnozz at the ready… it's foraging time.

Where to find wild garlic in London

From late winter until the end of spring, you can find wild garlic in the same place you find bluebells – damp, shady nooks in woodlands, hedgerows and parks. You'll be able to smell it before you see it. Harvest from the middle of the patch and pick it well above the root to keep the plant happy. A few spots in London where you can find wild garlic are:

  • Abney Park Cemetery
  • Battersea Park
  • Epping Forest
  • Hackney Marshes
  • Highgate Cemetery
  • Hillcrest Woods
  • Springfield Park
  • Streatham Common
  • Walthamstow Marshes
  • Wimbledon Common


  • 10 fresh lasagne sheets (if using dried, blanch them in boiling water for two minutes and place onto an oiled baking sheet before using)
  • 15g parmesan, finely grated

Wild garlic pesto:

  • 2 large handfuls of wild garlic leaves
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 2 packs of basil (around 60g)
  • 80g parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 165ml of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 60g flour
  • 900ml whole milk, warmed
  • 120g grated hard cheese (comté, gouda or mature cheddar work well)
  • 2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/ fan 170°C / gas 5. Start off by making the pesto. Blanch the wild garlic leaves in a saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds and drain in a colander. Put the leaves into a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much water as possible. Set aside.
  2. Heat a dry frying pan on a medium heat and toast the pine nuts, ensuring they don’t burn. Add these to a blender or pestle and mortar with the wild garlic, basil, parmesan, lemon juice and zest, olive oil and a splash of water. Blend or pound until combined and season with salt and pepper.
  3. To make the bechamel, heat the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat until it melts, and gradually whisk in the flour until it forms a paste (called a roux). Cook out the roux for a minute to avoid a floury-tasting sauce. Gradually whisk in the milk until incorporated. Turn the heat up to medium/high and continue whisking for a few more minutes until starting to thicken.
  4. Add in the grated cheese, nutmeg and mustard and continue whisking until thickened (you want the consistency of double cream). Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  5. Time to assemble the lasagne. Start by spooning a layer of bechamel onto the bottom of a 32 x 21cm ovenproof, deep rectangular dish, followed by a layer of pesto, then add your lasagne sheets on top. Continue layering until you run out of sauce. Finish with a final layer of bechamel and pesto and sprinkle over the finely grated parmesan.
  6. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until the top is starting to brown at the edges. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before serving (we don’t want burnt mouths). Serve with a pile of rocket tossed in lemon juice and olive oil.