Eating/Reading‘s Mary Rizzo: When I moved to Philadelphia, I wanted to buy a place big enough that I could have a couple housemates. Most of my life I’ve lived with other people, and, while that has its downsides, I find that, when I live alone, I get into bad habits. Luckily, my housemates and I share a deep love for cooking. (I’m going to guess that there are few other places in Philadelphia where you’re likely to come home and find someone whipping up 10 mini-cheesecakes or brining a chicken, as happens regularly at my house.) Last spring, we decided to throw an Italian-themed potluck dinner. For the occasion, I concocted a vegetarian lasagna based on the colors of the Italian flag: red, green and white. The party was a great success; we found room, somehow, for thirty people to have a sit-down, several-course dinner. More importantly, it was a great example of how food really brings people together in celebration and joy. Such happy faces! Enjoy my Italian Flag Lasagna!
Mary Rizzo’s Italian Flag Lasagna
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 bunch green Swiss chard (or a large bag of spinach)
- 1 jar prepared tomato sauce—any brand you like
- 1 pound ricotta cheese (preferably whole milk)
- ½ pound of Parmesan or Locatelli Pecorino Romano
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella (or you can use the Polly-O shrink wrapped mozzarella from the supermarket. I know people hate on it, but it works fine in recipes like this)
- 2 eggs
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 shallots
- fresh grated nutmeg
- 1 box lasagna noodles
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Squash: Halve the butternut squash and rub cut side with olive oil. Place cut side down on roast pan and bake until a knife easily pierces the flesh, at least 30 minutes. When cool, scrape the flesh into a blender or food processor and puree until it’s smooth. If it seems very watery, you should squeeze out some of the water using cheesecloth. Set aside.
- Swiss chard: Rinse the Swiss chard, and cut off the stems, keeping the leaves. Shred the leaves and blanch for two minutes in salted, boiling water. Drain and set aside.
- Garlic and shallots: Finely chop garlic and shallots. Saute in olive oil until they have collapsed. Toss Swiss chard in briefly. Put in bowl and set aside.
- Using boiled salted water from Swiss chard cook whole box of lasagna noodles until al dente.
- While noodles are cooking, mix ricotta, Parmesan or Locatelli (reserving some for the top), eggs and salt and pepper to taste. And be sure to taste! It should be creamy and slightly salty. Put some freshly grated nutmeg in, again to taste.
- Grate the mozzarella.
- Assemble the lasagna: Pour a bit, probably a ½ cup or so, of the prepared tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9X13 casserole dish. Layer noodles to fit the bottom. You may have to trim some to cover the whole pan. Dollop some of the cheese mixture on this layer and smooth out. Now, it’s your choice. Either layer some of the sautéed Swiss chard on top of the cheese or the butternut squash. Either way, when you’re done, sprinkle some of the mozzarella and then ladle some more sauce on it (just enough to mostly cover it) and the put another layer of noodle, cheese and the other vegetable. When you get to the top, be sure to give a last good ladle of sauce, a nice layer of grated mozzarella and a hearty sprinkle of Parmesa or Locatelli.
- Put in the oven at 375 oven for about 30 minutes. It should look nice and toasty on the top. Let sit when you remove from the oven for at least 15 minutes to set.