Lasagna with Swiss Chard & Lemon
One of my favorite evenings of the year comes the night before Thanksgiving. On that Wednesday each November we host Lasagna Night. As our friends and neighbors (and all their relatives) gather for the big Thanksgiving event, we open our house to share some seriously good food and drink. It's a sort of "pregame" to turkey day, where everyone gets a chance to reconnect, catch up, and then head home to finish the preparations for the next day. As with most good traditions, it stays rooted in the basic concept- low-key, casual, good wine and lots of lasagnas- but being the kind of compulsive creative types that we are, the lasagnas are getting more interesting and varied with each passing year. As I began cooking for this year, I thought I'd share a few of our favorites, and who knows- maybe you'll be inspired to start a Lasagna night of your own!
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups finely shredded Mozzarella
5 cups coarsely chopped Swiss chard (about 1 bunch)
2 lemons, sliced lengthwise, thinly
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 package no-boil lasagna noodles (I prefer Barilla)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour to create a paste (called a roux). Continue to stir regularly, watching for the color of the roux to go from beige to golden.
- When the nice golden color develops, remove from heat and whisk in milk quickly and evenly (this is called a béchamel sauce). Bring to a low boil, stirring. Reduce heat and let simmer until it thickens.
- Once thickened, remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the lemon zest.
- Once the cheese is incorporated, stir in chard. Continue stirring over low heat until chard wilts a bit.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Cover lemon slices with cold water by 3 inches in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon, and stir into the sauce 4 tablespoons of the water the lemons were boiled in to add a bit more lemon flavor.
- Spread 1 tbs. of olive oil on the bottom of a lasagna pan or 8 x 11 baking dish. Then spread ¼ cup sauce in the pan for a base layer. Top with 2 noodles, 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella, a layer of lemon slices, and 1 cup sauce. Repeat with another 2 noodles, lemon slices, sauce, and cheese. Top with the last two noodles, the remaining sauce, and a layer of lemons. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and a healthy dose of cracked black pepper.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and uncover. Top with remaining parmesan cheese. Place under (low) broil until bubbling and slightly browned, 2-3 minutes.