My mom is an Italian girl from Jersey.
Her red sauce with meatballs or stewed beef was beloved by my buddies. So much so that sometimes I wondered if it was her food, rather than my sparkling personality that lured my friends to the house.
Sort of like the idea of tying pork chops around your child’s neck to get the dog to play with them (my parents hardly ever had to do that with me).
Ironically, I’ve never been a fan of tomato-based sauces. Not even in pizza. The only dishes I like it in is eggplant and other parmigiana recipes, and although it embarrasses me to admit, Chef Boyardee ravioli.
I recently worked up a new lasagna made with a modified béchamel (cream sauce), and full of things I love.
Chicken, pea, and kale lasagna
For the Lasagna:
15 no-boil lasagna noodles, or more, if necessary
3 to 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken meat
12 ounces frozen peas, thawed and drained
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup coarsely grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
1 cup chicken stock
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
For the sauce:
6 tablespoons butter
4 large cloves of garlic, diced finely
1 shallot diced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon dry thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
½ teaspoon pepper
5 cups dairy (I used 4 ½ cups skim, and ½ cup heavy cream, ‘cause it’s what I had)
1 cup frozen chopped kale thawed, with the water squeezed out.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add garlic and shallots, sauté about 1 minute stirring frequently.
Whisk in flour, herbs and salt. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the milk, a cup at a time, whisking smooth after each addition and allowing it to thicken before adding next cup. When all the milk is in, and it starts to gently bubble, remove from heat, and stir in kale.
Grease 9×13 pan with cooking spray (or 2-8X8’s).
Cover bottom of pan with lasagna noodles (if needed, use broken pieces to fill), half of the chicken, peas, and Parmesan, ⅓ cup stock, and 1½ cups sauce (if using 8X8’s just cut all measurements in half and fill both dishes at the same time).
Repeat this layer once more.
Lastly, top with third layer of noodles, the rest of sauce and stock, and all the Swiss cheese.
Spray underside of a piece of foil with cooking spray. Cover casserole with foil and bake 40 minutes.
Remove foil (if you need to at this point use paper towels and blot up any grease on top), sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, and bake until top is golden brown and bubbly and internal temp in center is 165 degrees (approx. 15-25 minutes).
Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Serves 8.
When I make this, I usually divide it into two casseroles. I tightly wrap one up, label it, and freeze it. I can then take it out of the chill chest, let it defrost, and make it for supper another night. Or, in a pinch, I can just cook it a little longer straight from frozen.
It works great for a potluck dish, or to carry to a neighbor who needs a hand with cooking (i.e., new baby, sickness, or bereavement).
This stuff is so good that I don’t need my mom’s spaghetti to make friends for me anymore. My lasagna brings all the folks to the yard.
Thanks for your time.