Green is good

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I’m an Aries, which is a fire sign, so according to every horoscope I’ve ever read (actually, TBH, I’m not that into it, so really, not many) the clothes I wear, the polish on my nails, my lipstick, the colors of my walls, even my hair should be one specific color.

Red.

I will agree that red lips and nails have their place, I own both and occasionally wear them, usually for festive events. And, in the 80s, I had hair the red of diner ketchup (a thoroughly bad idea that I’ll never repeat).

But you could look through my entire closet and dresser and the only red clothing you’d find is a scratchy red sweater and a clingy red sweater dress that I’ve only had the nerve to wear once.

There is though, a red that I avoid even more than scarlet clothing.

Old school red spaghetti sauce. My mom is half Italian, and when I was growing up she made it two or three times a week. The recipe’s from her father, who, ironically was not the Italian parent.

I just never liked it. Or any red Italian sauce. Apparently, though, my mom’s is the bomb because every time she made it people came running. One of my friends had spent time in Italy and said my mom’s sauce was better by a mile. She used to make it for lunch each year for the crew of my friends that helped frost about 20 dozen of her Christmas cookies. Each year we’d have a waitlist for frosting elves.

Other than the Parmesan family (veal Parmesan, eggplant parm …) there’s one other dish made with spaghetti sauce that I love. It’s the beef cannelloni at Marco Polo’s Marketplace, the Italian/Chinese restaurant at Bush Gardens Williamsburg.

It’s not that the park’s red sauce is better than every other red sauce. It’s because before covering the pan of stuffed pasta with red sauce, the whole thing is drenched in bechamel sauce (cream sauce).

And let’s face it — cream sauce is the frosting of savory foods. It’s rich, fatty, delicious, and makes everything you put it on taste better.

But not liking one type of pasta sauce absolutely does not mean I don’t love the pasta that goes under it. We eat pasta a few times a week. Heck, we had it tonight.

So, I came up with a lasagna made with a modified cream sauce. There’s chicken, peas, and kale in an herbaceous bechamel. Then the whole thing is topped with Swiss cheese and bread crumbs. It’s also a wonderful make-ahead dish. You can even freeze it. When I do freeze it, I wrap the whole thing in foil, then plastic wrap. I drop the bread crumbs in a zip-top bag, lay it on the wrapped dish, then wrap it in plastic a second time. Then you can bake your non-freezer burned product in the two stages it needs. Wrapped this way it’s also the perfect dish to take to a friend or neighbor (just add a note with cooking directions).

So Petey and The Kid may have to leave home and get their red sauce fixes on the streets, but when it comes to pasta, I’ve got ‘em covered.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at debbie@bullcity.mom.

Chicken Lasagna with Kale and Peas

15 no-boil lasagna noodles, or more, if necessary

3-4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken meat

12 ounces frozen peas

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup coarsely grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese

1 cup chicken stock

¼ cup panko breadcrumbs

For the Sauce:

6 tablespoons butter

8 large cloves of garlic, diced fine

1 shallot diced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

1 teaspoon dry thyme

¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher (or to taste)

½ teaspoon pepper

3 cups skim milk

2 cups half and half

1½ cups frozen chopped kale, thawed with all the water squeezed out

Preheat oven to 400°.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Add garlic and shallots, saute about 1 minute stirring constantly.

Add flour, herbs, and salt. Whisk and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add milk, one cup at a time, whisking after each addition, and allowing it to thicken before adding the next cup. When all the milk is in, and it starts to gently bubble, remove from heat, stir in drained kale, and set aside.

Grease a 9×13 pan with cooking spray (or 2 8x8’s).

Cover bottom of the pan with lasagna noodles, half of the chicken, half the peas, ¼ cup Parmesan, 1/3 cup water, and 1½ cups sauce (if using 8x8’s just cut all measurements in half and fill both dishes at the same time).

Repeat this layer once more.

Lastly, top with a third layer of noodles, 1/3 cup water, 1½ cups sauce, and Swiss cheese.

Spray the underside of the foil with cooking spray. Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove foil, sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until top is golden brown and bubbly.

Let stand at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Chicken Lasagna with Kale and Peas

15 no-boil lasagna noodles, or more, if necessary

3-4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken meat

12 ounces frozen peas

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup coarsely grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese

1 cup chicken stock

¼ cup panko breadcrumbs

For the Sauce:

6 tablespoons butter

8 large cloves of garlic, diced fine

1 shallot diced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

1 teaspoon dry thyme

¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher (or to taste)

½ teaspoon pepper

3 cups skim milk

2 cups half and half

1½ cups frozen chopped kale, thawed with all the water squeezed out

Preheat oven to 400°.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Add garlic and shallots, saute about 1 minute stirring constantly.

Add flour, herbs, and salt. Whisk and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add milk, one cup at a time, whisking after each addition, and allowing it to thicken before adding the next cup. When all the milk is in, and it starts to gently bubble, remove from heat, stir in drained kale, and set aside.

Grease a 9×13 pan with cooking spray (or 2 8x8’s).

Cover bottom of the pan with lasagna noodles, half of the chicken, half the peas, ¼ cup Parmesan, 1/3 cup water, and 1½ cups sauce (if using 8x8’s just cut all measurements in half and fill both dishes at the same time).

Repeat this layer once more.

Lastly, top with a third layer of noodles, 1/3 cup water, 1½ cups sauce, and Swiss cheese.

Spray the underside of the foil with cooking spray. Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove foil, sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until top is golden brown and bubbly.

Let stand at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

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