Like most Italians, my husband grew up eating his Noni’s Pasta Fagioli, aka “pasta and beans.” No doubt, you’ve heard its colloquial name, “Pasta Fazool”… Southern Italians have a habit of dropping the final vowel.
After buying some beautiful rainbow chard at the farmer’s market, I started searching for interesting recipes. Winter greens like chard, kale, and collards are densely packed with nutrients that stave off cancer and other diseases. Dressing them up with full-flavored ingredients like garlic, lemon and cream helps to balance their bitterness.
This is another Martha Stewart recipe that I tweeked for convenience. Using rainbow chard instead of Swiss chard throws a bit of pink in the layers and looks really pretty, making this meal a good Valentine’s Day option. I also used a combination of sweet and hot turkey sausage to cut some calories and fat. And I can never resist adding fresh ricotta to homemade lasagna.
To remove the stems from the greens, fold the leaf in half, and cut the stalk from the edge. It’s fairly easy to find fresh lasagna noodles at the grocery store to save time. Be generous with the Bechamel, because the pasta will soak it up in the oven.
Sausage and Swiss Chard Lasagna
For the Filling
1 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 links of Italian turkey sausage, one sweet, one hot, casings removed, meat crumbled into small pieces
2 shallots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch half moons
1 bunch rainbow chard, stems removed, leaves cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp coarse salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 tblsp fresh lemon juice
For the Bechamel
2 1/2 tblsp unsalted butter
1/4 of an onion, finely diced
1 tsp coarse salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
fresh lasagna noodles, cut to fit your pan and cooked
4 oz fresh ricotta cheese, drained if wet
4 oz fontina cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Make the filling: Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage, and cook, stirring until golden and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer sausage to a paper-towel-lined plate.
2. Reduce heat to medium, and add shallots to drippings in pan. Cook, stirring often until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add chard and cook, stirring frequently, until just starting to wilt, 2 minutes. Add garlic, lemon zest, and salt, season with pepper. Cook, stirring often until chard wilts completely, about 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Transfer to a colander to drain.
3. Make the Bechamel: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, red-pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally until onions are slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk a little at a time, until incorporated. Bring to boil, stirring often, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring gently and often, until thickened and creamy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. In a 11 x 8 inch baking dish, spread 6 tblsp of bechamel in dish and top with a noodle. Spread half of the chard mixture evenly, then 1/2 the sausage, then dot with ricotta. Top with 4 tblsp Bechamel, then another noodle. Repeat with chard, sausage, ricotta and Bechamel, then another noodle. Spread another 2 tblsp Bechamel over the top, then sprinkle with the Fontina.
5. Bake until cheese is golden brown and sauce is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
Los Angelinos have mad love for Lucques, and the woman behind it, Suzanne Goin. Open since 1998, the James Beard award-winning kitchen serves seasonal dishes, made from the local bounty of California’s produce, cheeses, seafood, and meats. Some friends took us there for lunch this summer, and we ate our fill of heirloom tomatoes, fresh burratta, and soft-shell crab. The restaurant itself is airy and cozy at the same time.
I recently checked out Goin’s cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques from the library and I highly recommend it. It is divided by seasons, and I’ve already earmarked several dishes for this fall and winter. For our Sunday supper last night, I made her Winter Squash Risotto with Radicchio and Parmesan. I can’t tell you how delicious it was (just look at Greg’s face after the first bite). And the colors just jump off the plate…
Says Goin, “To make perfect risotto, really pay attention to what’s happening in the pan. As the risotto cooks, stir it with a wooden spoon in rhythmic movements. The rice should be constantly bubbling, drinking up the liquid as it cooks.”
Winter Squash Risotto with Radicchio and Parmesan
2 cups 1/2 inch diced Kabocha or Butternut Squash
2 tblsp extra-virgin-olive oil
1 tbspn thyme leaves
4 cups chicken stock
3 tblsp unsalted butter
1 cup diced white onion
2 pinches red pepper flakes
2 cups high-quality Arborio Rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup thinly sliced radicchio
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup sliced flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Toss the squash with 2 tblsp oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, salt and fresh pepper. Roast the squash on a baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until tender when pierced, about 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Bring the chicken stock plus 4 cups water to a boil, and turn off the heat.
3. Heat a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 3 tblsp butter, and when it foams, add the onion, remaining 2 tsp thyme, red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper. Sauté 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until onion is translucent.
4. Stir in half the roasted squash, the rice, and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the rice just begins to toast and the grains of the rice have a white dot at their center. Pour in the white wine, and once it has evaporated, quickly add 1 cup of the hot stock and stir continuously. When the stock has completely absorbed, begin adding the liquid in 1-cup batches, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon in a rhythmic back-and-forth motion. Wait for each batch of liquid to be absorbed before adding the next. (For me this process took about 30 minutes). It should neither be soupy nor dry; each grain of rice should be coated in a flavorful, starchy sauce.
5. When the rice is almost done, turn off the heat and stir in remaining squash. Let rest for 1 minute, then quickly stir in the radicchio, half the parmesan, and parsley. Spoon into shallow bowls and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.