Thursday, June 5, 2008

Kale Lasagna with Bechamel

Lasgna is not a difficult thing to make, and there are so many variations that it can be a completely different meal every time. I've always made lasagna with a tomato sauce and lots of ricotta, subbing in whatever veggies I have on hand. Lasagna made with bechamel, which I order whenever I see it on a menu, always seemed difficult and time-consuming. It wasn't until I actually tried making bechamel that I discovered just how easy it is.

Replacing tomato sauce and ricotta in a lasagna with bechamel makes the final product seem lighter and springier (even if the milk has more fat than the ricotta would have). The pasta doesn't need to be cooked beforehand as long as it it completely covered with sauce; the heat, moisture, and steam will cook it through.

Kale Lasagna with Bechamel
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6-8 large leaves of kale, chopped and stems removed
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
5 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
4 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
1 pound fresh pasta, rolled out as thin as possible

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add oil and cook until fragrant. Add kale and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted down and carrots are tender. Set aside to cool.

For the bechamel, using a small sauce pot on medium-low, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture is golden, stiring constantly, about 6 minutes. In a separate pot, heat milk until almost boiling. Add milk to butter, 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add salt, nutmeg, and parsley.

To assemble, cover the bottom of a glass baking dish with a layer of sauce. Lay down a layer of pasta. For each layer, add bechamel, making sure the pasta is completely covered by the sauce so it will cook through. Alternate layers of the kale mixture and the chopped mozzarella, finishing with mozzarella on the top.

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake lasagna for 30-50 minutes, until cheese on top begins to brown. Cut a few holes through the layers to allow steam out.

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