Do you know how hard it is to take an appetizing picture of lasagna? Well, let me tell you: it’s hard. Especially in dreary, grey, rainy February afternoon “daylight.” There’s a reason that lasagna photos are always tarted up with fresh basil or a white-aproned chef, proudly bearing the baking dish: lasagna is ugly food. Lest that dissuade you from making this dish, however, let us remember The Kitchenette’s cardinal rule: ugly food is delicious. (And on a completely unrelated note, did you notice that David Lebovitz tells us not to use the word “delicious” when blogging about food? That just makes me want to use it more. Delicious. Deelicious. Deeeeeeeliiiiiicccciiiioussssssss.)
In other words, while this lasagna may not win any beauty pageants, it is quite good. Tasty, in fact. Dare I use the D-word? Well, to be more descriptive than “delicious,” this lasagna is quite light (as light as lasagna ever gets, that is). It’s a vegetable lasagna; the delicate flavor of swiss chard permeates the entire dish. The sausage is there to flavor the sauce, and occasionally you get a bite, like buried treasure, that is, dare I say, delicious; yet the swiss chard steals the show here, leaving the sausage where it really should be, a character actor, popping up now and then to add spice and interest, lending dimension to the dish as a whole, but not overshadowing the main players.
While I wouldn’t call this “quick & easy” there is nothing difficult about this dish. Lasagna always seems to take longer than I think to assemble, but if you approach it right, it’s fun: kind of like building sand castles or playing with Legos. You just build it, layer by layer, and if you realize your forgot something halfway through, well, just add more in the middle. It all blends. This version is particularly easy, because many of the ingredients are added directly to the sauce (it’s pretty hard to forget the sauce), all combined in one skillet. The chard releases so much water while cooking that there is no need to pre-cook the noodles, saving you another step (and another pot to wash). And though I used Trader Joe’s marinara (it was going to expire) and storebought ricotta (I’m a bad locavore) it’s not too difficult to make this dish entirely local: the chard came out of my freezer, the sausage was picked up at Holbrook Farm last week, the mozzarella homemade, the basil dried last summer. Give it a whirl this weekend: you may just find it…. delicious.
Sausage & Swiss Chard Lasagna
- 1 lb lasagna noodles
- 8 oz sweet sausage (about 2 large links; I used a smoked chicken sausage with basil & sun-dried tomato)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3/4 oz dried tomatoes, submerged in 1/2 cup of boiling water (about 1/4 cup packed tomatoes, chopped & rehydrated)
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1 quart plain tomato sauce or purée
- 1/4 cup red wine
- about 12 oz (1 large bunch) swiss chard (fresh or frozen; if fresh, wilt chard by lightly sautéing in oil over high flame for 1 to 2 minutes), coarsely chopped
- 1 lb ricotta
- 1 lb mozzarella, grated
- 1 oz (about 1/2 cup) grated hard cheese, such as parmesan (I used an aged local goat cheese)
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cover the bottom of a 9″ X 13″ baking dish with one layer of lasagna noodles (no need to cook them first; the swiss chard will release a lot of water on baking which will be absorbed by the pasta).
- Make sauce. Slice or crumble the sausage and brown over medium-high heat in a large skillet (if the sausage is very lean, add a touch of olive oil to prevent sticking). Add onion (and extra oil if necessary), reduce heat to medium-low and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Strain rehydrated tomatoes from tomato water (reserve) and coarsely chop. Add to the onions & sausage. Add basil, stir, and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, 1/4 cup of the tomato water and red wine; bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer sauce while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Prior to using in the lasagna, taste and add salt & pepper if necessary.
- Assemble lasagna. Dollop about 1/3 of the ricotta evenly across the bottom layer of noodles. Scatter chopped swiss chard over the noodles, then sprinkle about 1/4 of the grated hard cheese. Ladle about 1/4 of the tomato sauce around the cheese and chard; sprinkle with about 1/4 of the grated mozzarella. Top with more noodles. Repeat this process for 3 layers, which should use up all of the ricotta and swiss chard. For the top layer, spread tomato sauce evenly over the entire surface of the noodles (which keeps them from drying out) and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and hard cheese. Sprinkle some dried basil over the top and cover the entire pan tightly with aluminum foil.
- Bake lasagna. Bake in the preheated oven, covered, for about 1 hour, or until the cheese is melted and the lasagna is bubbling throughout. If the lasagna appears watery at the edges, uncover, fold foil in half and lay across the top, with the edges of the pan exposed (to protect the noodles from burning), and bake for another 5 – 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
- Serve. Allow the lasagna to rest, covered, for 5 – 10 minutes prior to serving for the neatest slices.
Serves 9 – 12.
- I love me a good spicy sausage, but this recipe works best with a sweet variety; the swiss chard flavors the noodles wonderfully, but the flavor is subtle and would be overwhelmed by a robust, spicy sausage.
- Because of the swiss chard, this is a pretty wet lasagna, especially while cooking; I suspect that the various forms of gluten-free pasta (rice, jerusalem artichoke, etc.) would become too mushy over the baking period.
- I originally planned this dish with kale, or a mix of leafy greens (but swiss chard won the Who’s On Top of The Chest Freezer Lottery), which would work, but I have to say the swiss chard was delightful. Softer and more delicate than kale, with a subtle flavor all its own, the flavor permeated the dish and made it quite special. Try to use chard if you can.
- This is really a flavor-packed dish; I used only the tiniest pinch of salt, and a bare grinding of pepper, in the sauce. It doesn’t need much, so be careful not to overdo the seasoning.
Refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Year round, but a nice, hearty dish for winter. Fresh swiss chard is in season in Spring and Fall.