|Almost all of the ingredients! Not Pictured: Eggs, S&P.|
Pasta with sauce is one of my all time favorite things (made with MY (and my Dad's) sauce only...) I remember being a little kid waking up sunday mornings to the smell of sauce simmering away in the kitchen. I would pitter patter into the kitchen in my nightie just as my Dad was browning sweet italian fennel sausage and his amazing homemade meatballs. Upon my entrance, he would be sure to leave a few pieces of sausage and a meatball in the pan to cook all the way through while he added the rest to the giant pot of sauce that would be simmering for most of the day. After the bits of sausage and meatball finished cooking, we would devour them, "testing" them to make sure they were okay. We would also "test"the sauce all day by dipping bits of bread in (any kind) when we thought my mom wouldn't catch us. She always knew though, of course! At the end of the day we would be rewarded with a big bowl of capellini with sauce and meatballs piled high with lots of asiago or parmigiano reggiano.
....and I digress. This is not a post about pasta and sauce. I will leave that for another time. As I said earlier, I evaluated my options. I COULD have made pasta with sauce, but that would have only utilized one of the items that needed to be cooked and eaten. Finally I settled on swiss chard and zucchini, with the addition of my leftover sauce.
And so, I decided to make Zucchini Lasagna.
This required a trip to the store, of course, but at least I had most of the core ingredients and was using up fresh produce. I did not follow a recipe, most of the time I do not. I instead chose to base it off of my Nanie's recipe. There is no pasta in this dish. I remember when I thought that was weird when I was little ("How is it lasagna without noodles!!? wahh!!") but apparently noodle-less lasagna is a traditional and common thing where my family is from in Sicily. Gotta love having some Italian-American in you!
ZUCCHINI LASAGNA WITH SWISS CHARD STUFFING
1 bunch of swiss chard
2 cups of whole milk ricotta (about 1 15 oz container, or I highly recommend you make your own.)
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh italian parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated hard Italian cheese of your choice ( I used parmigiano reggiano), do not pack
2 small shallots, finely chopped
3 small(ish) cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 eggs (there is only one in the picture you will see later)
salt and pepper to taste
nutmeg, freshly grated to taste
2 medium sized zucchini, sliced thinly
2 cups of tomato based sauce, your choice.
1/2 8 oz package of fresh buffalo mozzarella
Preheat oven to 375º
Total prep time: 1/2 hour
Total time in oven: 45 minutes
Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil.
While you are waiting, coarsely chop the swiss chard, set aside.
Thinly slice zucchini, however you want to. I don't have a proper peeler at the moment, or I would have used that. I tried to slice lengthwise (see pictures) but I found it ended up being easier to just slice it in rounds. Put in a bowl and sprinkle with salt, and toss. This will release some liquid, this is good. get rid of it. Squeeze that ish out if you need to. With the zucchini and chard, if you don't try to remove as much water as you can before cooking, it will be released in cooking and the dish will come out watery and not keep it's shape and just kind of be a mushy mush.
At this point, your water should be boiling. Add your swiss chard and blanch until bright green and al dente. About a minute. Drain into a colander, and add some ice cubes and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle. Once it is cool, take handfuls of it and squeeze out ALL excess water ( I just used my hands). Don't be soggy. Nobody wants soggy, watery lasagna. After you have squeezed out as much as you can, chop it as finely as you can, stems and all. I suppose you could use a food processor but I don't have one of those.
|Blanching the chard.|
|Cooling the chard.|
|Swiss chard: Post Squeezing!!|
|The Filling ingredients! Looks like bibimbap?!|
|Filling after mixing.|
Anyway...assembling the lasagna is the next step.
Line the bottom of a 9x9 baking dish with a layer of zucchini. Follow with a layer of filling, about a half inch thick. Follow with a layer of sauce, and repeat. You should end with zucchini (or whatever...it's really up to you) and then slice up your mozzarella and put it on top of that.
|Oh, the delicious layers!|
|...when I decided to just slice the zucchini.|
|Last but not least, the fresh mozz.|
Cover in foil, and bake at 375º for a half hour or until bubbling. Remove foil, and brown mozzarella for about 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, and let sit for about 5-10 minutes (it's still going to be hot...don't worry!)
Then eat it. Makes about 6 servings.