Here’s a hearty way to get your greens: In a cheesy pan of lasagna

Joe Yonan

THE WASHINGTON POST – Lasagna is like pizza: Even when it’s bad, it’s good. With pizza, the saying goes, it’s still melted cheese on warm bread. With lasagna, sub in warm noodles for the bread, and you’ve got the same idea. What could be wrong with such bubbly goodness?

I based this version on a recipe in Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg. I love its use of kale and mushrooms, as well as a veloute (a flour-thickened slurry of vegetable broth and milk) rather than tomato sauce. But after making it once, I couldn’t help but enrich it a little, adding an egg to the ricotta filling and one of my favourite cheeses, smoked mozzarella, inside and on top.

The result was just what I was after – something a little more delicate than a typical meat-and-tomato-sauce affair but still hearty, cheesy and rich. Just as a good lasagna should be.

KALE AND MUSHROOM LASAGNA

Active: 30 minutes | Total: One hour 10 minutes

Eight servings

More delicate than a typical tomato-and-meat lasagna, this vegetable-forward version is still rich and bursting with flavor. You could use a mix of cooking greens instead of all kale; just be sure you wilt them until quite tender, so the texture harmonises with the other layers.

Kale and Mushroom Lasagna. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

INGREDIENTS

Six tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

Two cups vegetable broth, homemade or low-sodium store-bought

One cup whole milk or reduced fat milk

One teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

Freshly ground black pepper

One pound button or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped

12 ounces kale, thick ribs cut out, leaves cut into very thin strips

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

One pound whole-milk ricotta

One tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

One large egg (optional)

One box no-boil lasagna noodles

Eight ounces shredded smoked mozzarella Two ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese

STEPS

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the middle.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt four tablespoons of the butter. Add the flour, stir to make a smooth paste, and cook, stirring, so the raw flour flavour cooks out, one to two minutes. Whisk in the broth and the milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking to eliminate lumps. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened slightly, about five minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of the pepper, taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of the butter. When it stops sizzling, add the mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of the pepper, and cook, stirring and scraping the pan occasionally, until all the moisture from the mushrooms has been released and evaporated and they begin to brown and stick a bit to the pan, 10 to 12 minutes. Taste, and season with more salt, if needed. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Wash the kale thoroughly, leaving the water clinging to the leaves. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining one tablespoon of butter. When it stops sizzling, add the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the kale and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, tossing frequently, until the kale is wilted and very tender, about 10 minutes. You may need to add a few splashes of water along the way if the pan gets dry. Taste, and season with more salt, if needed.

In a small bowl, whisk the ricotta, lemon zest and egg, if using, until combined.

To assemble the lasagna, spread half the flour-milk mixture (called a veloute) in an even layer on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the noodles in an even layer, breaking the noodles to fit as needed. Spread the mushrooms evenly over the noodles and then top with the kale, distributing it evenly. Top with half the smoked mozzarella.

Arrange a second layer of noodles, then top with evenly spaced dollops of the ricotta. Gently spread the ricotta, without disturbing the noodles, to make an even layer. Add one more layer of noodles, pour over the remaining veloute, and finish with the remaining smoked mozzarella. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and the juices are bubbling around the edges. Let the lasagna cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

NUTRITION

Calories: 450; Total Fat: 23g; Saturated Fat: 14g; Cholesterol: 85mg; Sodium: 600mg; Carbohydrates: 41g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 4g; Protein: 22g.