I was going to make a joke about how this recipe is antipasta…but my heart wasn’t in it (getting up at 6am for back-crunching Pilates’ll do that to you).
Instead, just consider yourselves amused and we’ll move on.
On to better things, like how I took the pasta out of a lasagna but still kept the essential elements that make it a lasagna.
The creamy, cheesy white sauce is there, the veggie-packed tomato sauce…and all of it assembled in neat layers.
Holding it all together are layers of collard greens.
These sturdy leaves break up the tomato monotony without having to resort to belly-hating pasta.
They hold up well in the heat and are part of the broccoli family so you get all the benefits you associate with cruciferous vegetables.
For more interesting info (culinary geek alert), this is an interesting discussion about them in the NY Times (with more recipes if you’re feeling very adventurous).
I’m not going to lie to you, this takes a while to put together but it’s worth it. Also it doesn’t hold together quite like ‘normal’ lasagna but that’s ok, what it lacks in structure, it makes up for in taste.
You’ll never go back to pasta again (except, perhaps, if you’re Italian).
No-Pasta Chicken Lasagna (serves 4)
The tomato filling:
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
- 1/2 large white onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bird’s eye chili, finely chopped
- 2 beefsteak tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tbsps tomato paste
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 6 mushrooms, chopped
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp parley (or a handful chopped finely)
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, chili, garlic and herbs. Fry gently for a few minutes.
- Add the chicken pieces and turn up the heat to brown them. When slightly browned, turn the heat back down and add the tomato, tomato paste, green pepper and mushrooms.
- Simmer for 30 minutes. While it’s cooking, make the white sauce.
White sauce: (NB: if pressed for time, you can skip this step and use ricotta in place of the white sauce)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 400ml milk
- 1 cup grated cheddar
- 2 bay leaves
- Making white sauce is tricky. The idea is to get it to a thick paste consistency – you need to whisk it constantly to ensure it doesn’t turn lumpy.
- Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour (this is where you’re whisking skills are tested) and, while continuing to whisk, gradually pour in the milk. Add the bay leaves.
- It should stay at a thick consistency but, if it doesn’t, add a touch more cornstarch til it does.
- When it’s at a thickness you like, fish out the bay leaves and stir in the cheese ’til it melts.
- 4 collard greens leaves
- You need to blanch your collard greens before you start. Do this by dipping them in boiling water for a few minutes until they turn dark green. Take them out of the water, shake off the excess and set aside.
- Strain the tomato sauce (reserve the liquid, it’s great for soups etc) and put it in a shallow layer in an 8x8in casserole dish.
- Place 2 collard greens on top so it is covered. Repeat the process to create a second layer.
- Pour the white sauce over the top of the final collard greens layer.
- Bake at 400 for 30 mins.
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