Swiss Chard & Sausage Lasagna

This lasagna is simply amazing. It tastes as special as the name implies, with a few small ingredients making the difference to the overall flavor. It is also straightforward to make — if you plan well. (More on that below!)

The recipe had been sitting loose in my binder since I ripped it from a magazine a couple of years ago. I plugged away at it quite happily until I realized it was from Martha Stewart Living. I never have luck with her recipes, and I was sure it would be a disaster, now that I noticed it was hers. But I was so far down the road at that point that I had to finish, and I’m happy to say it is now my first Martha Stewart recipe success.

One note about the cheese: It calls for fontina, which I couldn’t find when shopping, and I was at a loss to think of a substitute. (There probably isn’t one.) It sounds terrible, but I ended up using sliced white American cheese because I unapologetically like it and thought it would melt well. It was fine. I would use fontina if I can find it in the future, but I wouldn’t be ashamed to use white American again.

Use a 13×9-inch pan.

For the filling:
14 oz. lasagna
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 lbs. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled into pieces (in a pinch, I used bratwurst sprinkled with oregano)
3 lbs. Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
3 shallots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest (crucial!)
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

For the bechamel:
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 onion, diced fine
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (crucial!)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups milk
8 oz. fontina cheese, grated

With a baby around, I had to make this in distinct stages, which may also be useful for people without a lot of time on their hands in general. Here are the steps I used:

1. Get everything prepared: Take the sausage from its casings and crumble it into a bowl. Wash and drain the Swiss chard, trim and cut it, then put it in a bowl. Cut the shallots and garlic and put them into another bowl. Grate the lemon zest, then put it into a small bowl with the salt and pepper. Cut the onion for the bechamel sauce and save it separately.

2. Cook the noodles: Put the lasagna noodles into a large pot of boiling water for nine minutes. Remove the noodles immediately so they don’t stick to each other, and set them aside. (If it will be more than a few hours until you use them, put olive oil in your hands and stack the cooked noodles so a little bit of oil gets smeared on each one, then refrigerate.)

3. Cook the fillings: Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Fry the sausage until browned, then transfer onto a paper-towel-lined plate. Reduce heat to medium and add the shallots and garlic to the drippings in the pan. Cook until softened, about 4 minutes, then add the chard. Cook, stirring frequently, until it just starts to wilt, then add the lemon zest with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the chard wilts completely. Stir in lemon juice, then drain in a colander.

4. Bechamel: Once you cook this, you must immediately proceed to step 5 and bake the dish, otherwise the sauce will be ruined. So melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are slightly translucent. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for a minute. Whisk in the milk a little at a time, until incorporated. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

5. Layer the ingredients in the pan: Put a small amount of bechamel in the bottom of the baking pan, tilting the pan around until the bottom surface is covered. Put down a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread half of the chard mixture evenly on top, then half of the sausage mixture, and half of the remaining bechamel. Lay down more noodles, then top with the rest of the chard, sausage, and almost all of the bechamel. Lay down the rest of the noodles, pour the rest of the bechamel on top, then cover with cheese.

Bake until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling, 30-45 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.