Luscious Lasagna with Rainbow Chard, Sausage, and Bechamel

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
Serves 4

Ingredients
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.