One of the easiest ways to use of leftovers is to make a “lasagna.” I use the quotes because the term lasagna is used loosely here. Since coming back from a recent trip to Florence, Italy I now know what authentic lasagna should taste like…but that is a topic for another post. I am back in the US and using the term “lasagna” to mean basically any baked flat noodle dish with sauce, filling, and cheese all baked together to result in a delicious casserole type meal.
After my New Year’s collard fix, I had leftover greens that were clean, chopped and needed to be used. In my search for how to use up the greens, I came across several lasagna recipes using spinach or swiss chard. So I thought, why not collards? I decided to take a risk and give it a try. It turned out to be a surprisingly tasty lasagna. The collards have a bit more bite than spinach, resulting in a lasagna that has a nice balance of flavor and texture. I added some chopped onion, red bell pepper, and kalmata olives to give the lasagna filling a Mediterranean twist. The end result was a delicious, healthy recipe that is a great way to use up leftover winter greens. The recipe below calls for collard greens in this version, but kale, swiss chard, etc. could be substituted. The key is to blanch the greens for a few minutes to tenderize the them prior to baking in the lasagna. Oh yes, this is another vegetarian meal option that is hearty and flavorful enough for meat lovers to enjoy too!
Winter Collard Green Lasagna
9 lasagna noodles (no boil are ok, but I prefer regular)
1 chopped onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped olives
4 cups fresh collard greens, washed and torn into pieces
one large egg, slightly beaten
salt and pepper
15 oz. whole milk ricotta
1 cup shredded low moisture mozzarella (feel free to use more, but I am watching my waistline…this is just enough for the perfect cheesy bite with each serving)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (not the ready made canned/jarred stuff..but fresh grated)
tomato sauce (I used a homemade version that has garlic, basil, oregano, and dried chili flakes as seasonings that I always have around, but you can just use 1 jar of your favorite store bought brand if you don’t have homemade sauce on hand)
If using regular lasagna noodles, place noodles in pan with hot water. Let the noodles sit and soften while you are preparing the filing.
Boiled collard greens in a pot of boiling water until just tender. Remove from water and drain well. Depending on the size of the torn collards, chop into a rough chop and place in a large mixing bowl. Sauté the onions, red bell pepper in olive oil until just softened. If you like extra garlic, add chopped garlic to the onions and peppers and sauté for another minute (the tomato sauce I used had plenty of garlic so I skipped this step). Place sautéed veggies in mixing bowl with collards, add olives and stir to combine. To this mixture add ricotta and egg; salt and pepper to taste–mix together so that all ingredients are distributed evenly for the filling.
Assemble the lasagna: in a 9×13 baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan to cover. Top with a layer of 3 noodles, veggie filling, portion of mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce. Repeat layers ending with a layer of noodles, sauce then cheese as the top layers. Add parmesan cheese as extra cheesy topping.
Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly around the edges, heated through. You can check the warmth of the lasagna by sticking a knife in the center–checking the warmth of the knife tip to see if the lasagna is fully heated. Remove from oven, allow to cool for a bit then serve and enjoy!