New Years has come and gone and so have all those New Year’s resolutions right? I would like to say that I resolved to lose those last few pounds of baby weight, or that I will go to the gym 5 days a week, or maybe I will lay off the frozen yogurt this year. But who am I kidding? I like food too much to be that dedicated. It’s not that I don’t strive to be healthy, but I don’t like to set strict limits on what I eat since I am a chef. If I go to a nice restaurant and I know their pastry chef has just created a new peanut butter parfait for the menu, I won’t be turning that down! I try to do everything in moderation though, so that is always my goal when it comes to eating and working out. Since December is always a busy month (at home and at work), it is way too easy to stuff Christmas cookies or cheese dip in my mouth when I’m in a hurry (and it is so easily accessible!). So when January rolls around, I do like to lighten things up and eat a little more balanced.
You’re probably wondering how lasagna is more balanced. But trust me, this sausage and kale lasagna is an awesome compromise. Yes, there is sweet italian pork sausage that is not super lean, but it is balanced with a whole head of kale that is chock-full of vitamins and minerals and a nice healthy serving of light ricotta cheese. This lasagna is full of flavor but it doesn’t feel heavy or greasy. And as far as lasagna goes, it is super easy to put together. The recipe is for a smaller baking dish, so it perfect for a family of 4 and you won’t be stuck with a huge pan of leftovers. It can also easily be classified as a 30 minute meal – if you don’t count the baking time.
Basically there is just some simple chopping, sautéing, and assembling. I love using ground sausage because there is absolutely no work. It is already seasoned and ready to go, you just have to brown it in the pan and it adds instant flavor to the onions and kale. Not that the point is disguise the flavor of kale, but the sausage helps compliment it. If you’re not a big fan of kale, you could substitute spinach but I really do recommend trying the kale. If you remember, I was quite sick of kale last year after our garden went nuts with it (see here), but the flavor is not overly prevalent in this lasagna and it helps to add texture.
Once the meat and vegetables are cooked, assembly is a breeze using the “No Boil Lasagna Noodles.” Thankfully I had a box on hand because the fresh pasta sheets I had bought on sale at Whole Foods turned out to be gluten-free (I blame the baby for the distraction, I must have picked up her fallen boots at least 10 times, why can’t they make baby shoes that stay on?). I am not against gluten-free products, but there are some things which should not be messed with. I did give the gluten-free noodles the old college try, but after boiling them they turned into a giant, gummy clump. I did not have the patience to try to pry them apart (nor the time), so I turned to the no-boil noodles in my pantry, and I am glad I did. I have only used them once before, and I forgot how easy they are. So long as you cover the built lasagna with foil before baking, the noodles absorb the liquid from the sauce and the kale, and they soften while they are in the oven.
This meal was a hit with my husband and the baby. Even though she is just 10 months old, I ground some up in the Cuisinart and she couldn’t get enough. I wouldn’t normally give my baby lasagna, but since this version didn’t have a bunch of greasy ground beef or mozzarella cheese, I didn’t feel guilty about it, and actually, the kale and ricotta are both pretty good for her. I will definitely make this lasagna again, but maybe change out some of the ingredients based on the season (like adding asparagus or lamb in the spring, or fresh tomatoes and eggplant in the summer). The kale though made for a perfect winter meal, and with the added health benefits I didn’t even feel guilty about not working out that day. It’s all about balance right?
1 red onion – medium dice
2 garlic cloves – chopped
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage
1 head kale (I used red kale) – chopped
1/2 cup red wine
3 sprigs thyme – leaves removed from the stem
12 oz jar pasta sauce (I used Trader Joes Bruschetta sauce)
1 box No Boil Lasagna Noodles (I used Whole Foods 365)
1 cup fresh ricotta
2 oz parmesan
salt & pepper to taste
*This lasagna is not very saucy, it is more about the meat and the greens. If you like a saucier lasagna, feel free to add more sauce to each layer.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add the sausage to the pan, and use a spatula to break up the meat into smaller chunks. Cook until browned. Add the kale, wine, and thyme leaves to the pan. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the kale is soft, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and drain off any excess liquid. Set mixture aside and let cool.
- Grease a smaller, oven-proof, baking dish. I used an 8″x6″x2″ pyrex that holds 6 cups. A square or rectangular dish is probably easier, but an oval would be ok too. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of sauce into the bottom of the dish. Place no boil lasagna sheets in a single layer on top of the sauce. My dish could fit 2 sheets side-by-side.
- Next, spoon half of the sausage and kale mixture on top of the noodles. Drizzle a couple of tablespoon of sauce over the kale and sausage and then another layer of noodles.
- Using your hands or a spoon, spread the ricotta in an even layer over the noodles. Top with another layer of noodles. Spoon the rest of the sausage and kale over the noodles and drizzle with a couple more tablespoons of sauce.
- Top with a final layer of noodles. Drizzle the rest of the sauce over the noodles, and spread evenly, making sure the noodles are covered and not dry. Grate the parmesan over the top of the lasagna. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven for 40 minutes. If you are worried about the parmesan sticking to the foil, spray the foil first with a little pan spray.
- Peel back the foil and check the lasagna. If you can see the sauce bubbling, then it is done. You can place the lasagna back into the oven, uncovered, for another 5-10 minutes to brown the parmesan.
- Allow the lasagna to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.