Kale works well in lasagna’s cheesy layers

Gretchen McKay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Sauteed kale and mushrooms work well in cheesy lasagna.

Lasagna is a favorite Italian pasta for many reasons, but mostly because it’s easy to assemble and can be adapted to any diet. And like a lot of people, I’m trying to consume less meat these days. Luckily, there are plenty of items in the produce aisle that go with tomatoes and cheese and can stand up to the oven.

This recipe features the classic combo of mushroom, garlic and Tuscan kale, a long-leafed variety that is not as bitter as the common curly kale. Be sure to cut out the fibrous center rib before chopping the leaves.

I used a tomato cream sauce, but you could go with marinara for a less rich dish. If you use no-boil noodles, be liberal with the sauce (especially on the sides and corners) or it will end up dry.

Serve with crusty Italian bread, a green salad and a nice glass of sangiovese.

3 Cheese Kale Lasagna

For sauce

2 tablespoons butter

28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes

28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1/2 peeled onion

Generous pinch of red pepper flakes

Generous pinch of salt

1/2 cup heavy cream, or more to taste

For kale filling

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

8 ounces mushrooms (any variety), sliced

Salt and pepper

1 bunch Tuscan kale, destemmed and chopped

For lasagna

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top

Zest of 1 fresh lemon

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

12 cooked or no-boil lasagna noodles

16 ounces grated mozzarella cheese

Make sauce: Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add whole and crushed tomatoes, along with onion wedge, red pepper flakes and salt.

Bring tomatoes to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and mashing large pieces of tomato.

Remove onion wedge, stir in cream and season with additional salt or pepper flakes, if needed. Keep warm.

While sauce is cooking, make cheese filling. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, grated Parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn it.

Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until mushrooms are lightly browned.

Add kale and sauté for 5 minutes, or until kale has softened. Set aside to cool slightly.

Prepare lasagna: Ladle about 1 cup tomato cream sauce into the bottom of a 12-by-9-inch lasagna pan and spread so it completely covers the bottom. Lay 4 lasagna noodles on top.

Pour another 3/4-1 cup of tomato sauce on top of noodles and spread with a spatula or spoon to cover.

Layer half of the kale mixture over the noodles, then dollop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on top, followed by 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat with 4 more noodles, sauce, kale, ricotta mixture and mozzarella cheese.

Add a final layer of lasagna noodles and top with the remaining tomato sauce and cheese. If desired, sprinkle a little grated Parmesan on top along with finely chopped parsley.

Cover pan with foil and bake for about 45 minutes or until top cheese is melted and golden.

Remove from oven; let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8.

— Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette