Lasagna and I have a somewhat complicated relationship. It's not that I don't love it (I mean it's cheese and pasta what's not to love), it's just that most lasagna's are all wrong. There is too much pasta for sauce or too much sauce for pasta or the pasta is just too thick. Some are watery and others are so overly heavy it feels as if you've consumed a brick. Some are just god awful.
But good lasagna with thin and delicate layers of pasta sandwiching the perfect amount of sauce and cheese is a thing of beauty. It stands tall on your plate for you to admire before you dive-in.
I planned on waiting longer before tackling this particular lasagna recipe. We are only one week into the month of December and perhaps it's too soon to give into the comfort food my body seems to crave this time of year. But it was calling me and with the weather as abysmal as it was on Saturday, who was I to argue with such a perfect storm.
I realize this is not the traditional lasagna recipe but perhaps because it veers from the standard iteration, I love it so much. It's light (or as light as lasagna can be) and its incredibly creamy and cheesy with the perfect amount of sauteed greens that you can almost convince yourself you are eating something (somewhat) healthy. It isn't healthy in the slightest (even I can admit that) but my god is it good and it's the kind of perfect deep-winter hibernation food that I love.
White Lasagna with Kale
Recipe adapted just a bit from Serious Eats
Notes: So I fiddled just a bit, streamlining in places (to help the dish load) and adding just a touch of crushed red pepper (I love a hit of heat). The biggest change I made was swapping kale for spinach since the kale looked better at the market. The plus side of making such a swap is that I now know any greens would work. Feel free to use what you have and what you love.
The original recipe says this yields 8 – 10 servings. Unless you are serving a group of football players after a big game, I think you can easily get 12 servings out of this and closer to 14 if serving it with other things (like a salad!). This recipe also halves brilliantly if you aren't feeding a crowd.
I don't need to tell you this is a bit of a project. Not a particularly difficult one mind you, but it does take a little bit of time. I say throw on some Christmas music and enjoy the process. The effort is worth it.
Yield 12 generous servings
For the Spinach
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds fresh lacitano kales(or flat or curly spinach leaves or swiss chard) , washed and dried
½ - 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (based on your heat preference)
For the Ricotta
1.75 pounds fresh ricotta cheese
4 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or pecorino)
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
For the White Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
12 ounces grated low moisture mozzarella cheese
10 ounces grated Comté, Gruyère, or Emmenthaler cheese (Fontina would also be nice though I used Gruyere and it was amazing)
1 1/2 pounds (enough sheets to make 8 - 12 layers) fresh lasagna noodles
Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (you will use the same pot for the spinach and white sauce). Add pasta sheets a few at a time and cook until barely tender, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer and run under cool water until well chilled. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel in a single layer. Continue until all pasta is par-cooked and dried. Set aside.
For the Spinach: Heat olive oil and butter in the large pot (same pot you cooked the pasta in) over medium heat until melted. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add a few large handfuls of kale (or spinach/swiss chard) and cook, stirring, until wilted. Continue adding kale a handful at a time until it is all in the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until kale expels its moisture and most of that moisture evaporates, leaving a dry bottom as you stir. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Transfer greens to a fine mesh strainer set over the sink and press out excess moisture with a rubber spatula. Let greens continue to drain as you prepare the ricotta mixture.
For the Ricotta: Transfer half of the ricotta, both eggs, the Parmesan, and the nutmeg to the bowl of a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Process until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Add spinach to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped, 10 to 12 short pulses. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and gently fold in the remaining ricotta to combine.
For the White Sauce: Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add flour and increase heat to medium high. Cook, stirring butter and flour with a whisk until paled golden blond, about 1 minute. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in milk. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat and add 3/4 of mozzarella and Comté cheese. Whisk until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To Assemble: Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
Drizzle a small amount of white sauce over the bottom of a lasagna pan or large casserole. Add a layer of noodles. Top with 1/8th (or 1/12th if you have more sheets) of spinach mixture and 1/8th (or 1/12th if you have more sheets) of remaining white sauce. Continue layering pasta, spinach, and white sauce until you lay down the top sheet of pasta.
Spread remaining spinach mixture evenly over the top. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Comté cheese and drizzle with remaining white sauce. Spread into an even layer with a rubber spatula.