A Decadent Lasagna
“The wind whistled over the settlements in the afternoon, and the farmers began to set out mile-long windbreaks of eucalyptus to keep the plowed topsoil from blowing away. And this is about the way the Salinas Valley was when my grandfather brought his wife and settled in the foothills to the east of King City.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Growing a summer vegetable garden is something I always want to do. I give it a try and usually have more fails than wins. Tomatoes are always a priority, but between the summer fog and our mostly shaded backyard thriving is random. Still, I’ve planted three tomato plants again this spring, Sun Gold, Celebrity and Giant Red Cherry. (I’ve given up on Early Girl.) We’re trying a different spot, but 6-8 hours of direct sun is more of a desire than a reality. Herbs do thrive. I’m thankful for parsley, thyme, sage, oregano and rosemary. The best part of last summer’s vegetable garden was the Swiss chard. I planted a six-pack of plants that faithfully gave dinner worthy chard for an entire year. I even forgot about them during this year’s rain. Now they are bolting, going to seed. Before I say goodbye I’m harvesting the tender leaves that are growing along the stalks for salad greens and sharing this recipe from the Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen for Chard and Pancetta Lasagna with Sage.
If you like Swiss chard this is a recipe to try, if you could care less about chard but like lasagna (and think about adding more greens to your diet) this is a recipe to try. Or if you have an abundance of chard and another serving of sautéed greens is stifling, you must make this recipe. However, this is a lasagna recipe, the healthy part is the chard and onion, after that we’re talking cheese, béchamel and noodles. Oh, and pancetta! Not too much, just enough to add that wow flavor that makes this recipe irresistible.
The original recipe is made in a large cast iron skillet. This makes a beautiful, huge lasagna. I went another direction, making two smaller pans of lasagna. One pan for dinner and another to freeze or give away. To accommodate two pans, more béchamel is needed. The recipe below is for making two separate lasagnas, in 8” or 9” square pans (or oblong pans or the equivalent size of pans).
Williams and Sonoma recipes can be a bit fussy with lots of dirty bowls and extra steps. After making the recipe several times I’ve simplified it a bit. Use already diced pancetta that can be cooked quickly instead of razor thin slices that must be cooked in batches. I buy a huge two pound block of mozzarella cheese at the big box store, grate the entire block of cheese in the food processor and then freeze what I don’t use for later. The original recipe calls for fried sage as a garnish for the finished lasagna. That’s a bit too much when we already have a creamy, cheesy lasagna, and it’s another messy thing to do. One step that helps the recipe along is soaking the no-boil noodles in hot water before assembling the lasagna. It works wonders for the texture of the lasagna noodles.
|2C/1 lb||ricotta cheese|
|2T||minced, fresh sage|
|2C/8 oz||shredded mozzarella cheese|
|1/4t||fine grain sea salt|
|Chard Pancetta Filling|
|8 oz||minced pancetta|
|1||yellow onion, diced|
|2 bunches||Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped|
|1/4t||fine grain sea salt|
|To assemble the Lasagna|
|1 pkg||no-boil lasagna noodles, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes|
|1-1/4C/5oz||shredded mozzarella cheese|
|12||fresh sage leaves|
- Heat the oven to 350°. To make two pans of lasagna, grease two, oven proof pans, either 8” or 9” square or oblong or the equivalent in size.
- Make the ricotta filling by mixing together the ricotta, egg, sage, mozzarella, milk and salt. Set aside.
- In a skillet over medium heat, cook the diced pancetta until crisp and browned and most of the fat is rendered out. Transfer the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onion to the pan and cook until softened. Remove the onion from the pan and place in a large bowl. Working in batches, add the chard to the skillet, stirring frequently, until the chard is wilted. As the chard cooks transfer it to the bowl with the cooked onions. Add the pancetta to the bowl and mix the filling together.
- In a large saucepan, pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, stir in the salt. Using half of the béchamel, spread the sauce in an even layer in the bottom of the pans, dividing it between the two lasagnas.
- To assemble the lasagna, arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles over the sauce, overlap the noodles a bit if needed. Spread a third of the pancetta mixture in an even layer on top, then a third of the ricotta mixture. Repeat the layers two more times: noodles, pancetta mixture, ricotta mixture. Add another layer of noodles and cover with the remaining béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining grated mozzarella. Garnish with a few fresh sage leaves.
- Bake until the noodles are tender and the lasagna is lightly browned and bubbly, about 30-40 minutes. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional sage leaves and serve hot.
- The second lasagna can be refrigerated for baking within 48 hours of preparation or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for baking later. Before baking, defrost in the frozen lasagna in the refrigerator overnight.
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