David Tanis is an award-winning chef and cookbook author who’s always welcome in our kitchen. He’s also been a guest on the Food Republic Today podcast. Pick up a copy of his latest collection of recipes and prepare to see vegetables in a whole new light. This broccoli rabe lasagna is a comforting, flavor-packed to feed a table of hungry vegetable-lovers.
Broccoli rabe makes a stellar vegetarian lasagna. The leaves, tender stems, and broccoli-like buds have a distinctive pleasant bitterness and deep flavor.
I pilfer some of the cooked greens to make a garlicky pesto and then chop the rest and add it to the layers. It’s worth making the pesto alone to sauce spaghetti.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups half-and-half, heated, plus a little more if necessary
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch cayenne
- grated nutmeg
- 1 pound dried lasagna noodles
- Salt and pepper
- 2 bunches broccoli rabe, tough stems trimmed
- 4 garlic cloves, grated or minced
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ricotta cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 4 ounces Parmesan or a combination of Parmesan and pecorino, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
For the lasagna
To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute, without browning. Gradually whisk in the half-and-half, about 1/2 cup at a time, to obtain a smooth, lightly thickened sauce. Turn the heat to low, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper to taste, the cayenne, and nutmeg to taste and cook, whisking, for 4 to 5 minutes. Thin it if necessary with a little more half-and-half — you want a pourable consistency. Place the saucepan in a hot water bath to keep the sauce warm.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Lift the noodles from the water with a spider or tongs and rinse well in a bowl of cold water. Drain and lay flat on a kitchen towel.
Blanch the broccoli rabe in the same cooking water for 1 minute, or until just wilted. Drain in a colander, rinse with cool water, and squeeze dry. Roughly chop the broccoli rabe.
Put 1 cup of the chopped greens, the garlic, and olive oil in a food processor or blender and puree to make the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a small bowl.
Mix the ricotta and lemon zest in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Use 2 tablespoons butter to grease an 8-by-10-inch baking dish.
To assemble the lasagna, put a layer of cooked noodles on the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon a quarter of the béchamel over the noodles, then dot with a third of the ricotta. Complete the layer with one-third of the chopped greens, a good drizzle of pesto, and about one-quarter of the grated cheese. Continue the layering, finishing with a layer of pasta. Spread the last of the béchamel on top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. (You will have 4 layers of pasta and 3 layers of filling.) Dot the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. (The lasagna can be assembled ahead and left at room temperature for up to 3 hours.)
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 minutes more, or until nicely browned on top and bubbling. Let lasagna rest for 10 minutes before serving. (Or set aside for up to several hours and reheat in the oven before serving.)