Layers of Love – Zucchini and Kale Lasagna with Lemon Ricotta
Its starting to feel like we’ve found our flow here in Nashville. I have found my go to places (grocery stores, farmers markets, hair salons, tailors etc…) and I can finally navigate about the city without getting too horribly lost. And by the Grace of God, Dustin has finally managed to secure a position with one of the city’s largest and arguably its best Civil engineering firms and we are both so excited and so thankful. To celebrate, I decided to buckle down to take on a project that Dustin has been hinting at for a few months and take another pass at making vegetable lasagna.
We made veggie lasagna for the first, and, until now only, time about 3 years ago, just after we first moved in together. The recipe was a MAJOR undertaking as it called for us to slice and roast all of 7 different vegetables. As each veg cooked at a different rate we were constantly pulling roasting pans out of the oven and checking the done-ness of the various ingredients. The final product was good, but sheesh, what a project!
I spent several days mulling over how I would attack another great lasagna endeavor. I was resolved to keep the baked pasta dish veggie friendly, and thus dismissed the idea of a typical bolognese style lasagna. I thought about what my favorite component of a lasagna is – and realized that, aside from the layers themselves, I was quite crazy about the smooth and creamy mozzarella and ricotta filling and decided that my final dish would need to employ this traditional component. For veggies I selected two of my current favorites – zucchini and kale. In homage to the original lasagna dish that Dustin and I made years back, I decided to roast the zucchini in the oven. The kale I simply sauteed in olive oil on the stove.
Like the first time we made lasagna, making this dish was a bit of a labor of love. It is a great recipe for a rainy day when there is not much else to do. I am really pleased with the way Dustin managed to capture the cooking process with his camera.Hopefully these will give you some useful visual pointers for carrying out the dish and inspire you to take on the great lasagna challenge.
Zucchini and Swiss Chard Lasagna with Lemon Ricotta
For the Zucchini Layer
4 Medium Zucchini Cut into Quarters and Diced into 1/2 Inch Segments
3 TBSP Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 jelly roll or other rimmed baking sheets with tin foil.
Toss the zucchini with olive oil and a liberal grinding of pepper, add salt to taste. Mix well and then divide among the two prepared baking sheets and bake for about 20 mins, turning at least once.
For the Greens Layer
1 10-oz Bag of Washed and Trimmed Kale (I got this at TJs) or 2 Bunches of Kale Stems Removed, Leaves Trimmed and Washed
2 Cloves Garlic Minced
1 TBSP Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet, add kale in 2-3 batches allowing it to wilt before adding another handful or two. Immediately after adding the last batch, add garlic, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, 2 mins. Remove Kale from heat and place in a bowl until ready to use.
For Lemon Riccotta Mixture
1.5 Lb Fresh Riccotta Cheese
3/4 Lb Grated Mozzarella Cheese
1 Mediun Lemon, Zested and Squeezed
1 TBSP Fresh Thyme or Oregano, Minced
Salt and Pepper
In a large bowl mix together the ingredients above. Add about 2 TSP Ground Pepper and about 1/2 TSP salt and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to use.
For Bechamel Sauce (recipe from Mario Batali)
5 TBSP Butter
4 TBSP Flour
4 C. Milk
2 TSP Salt
1/2 TSP Freshly Ground Nutmeg
In a medium, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hotto the mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.
To Finish the Lasagna
1 Package Flat (not Curly) No-Boil Lasagna Noodles (I bought mine from Trader Joes)
1/2 Cup Fresh Pesto
1/4 lb Freshly Grated Mozzarella
By the time you get to the assembly of the lasagna you are in the home stretch. Pick a large roasting pan for this job, you want one with deep sides that will be pretty for table side presentation. I used a large Emile Henry pan that my mother gave to me as a Christmas present, it was the perfect size at 14 x 10 x 3. Use one at least this size (or larger) or you may have some overflow issues.
Start by stirring your bechamel sauce and pour about 1/3 of this onto the bottom of the pan. Top with 1/2 the mozzarella cheese and a layer of noodles. Next, layer on about 1/2 of the pesto, followed by about half of the ricotta mixture. Then, gently add the zucchini on top of the ricotta, top this with another layer of lasagna noodles. Pour another third of the bechamel on top of the lasagna noodles. Repeat the process adding pesto on top of the bechamel, followed by cheese, greens, and another layer of noodles. Top this last layer with remaining bechamel sauce and wrap tightly with tin foil.
Bake in the oven at 350 for about an hour. Uncover the pan and top with remaining mozzarella and bake for an additional 20 mins or until the top is browned. Serve with or without a light topping of tomato sauce and enjoy!