A delicious alternative to the traditional tomato sauce laden version of lasagna. In this dish strips of lasagna are covered with a flavorful kale and cheese mixture, then rolled, and finally topped with a delicate tomato cream sauce. The slightly crunchy texture and definite flavor of kale give this lasagna a special character. It is perfect for a special occasion because it can be made in advance and then baked with no fuss.

Avoid kale leaves that are very large and have thick stems; the smaller the leaves the more delicate the flavor and texture. Kale leaves shouldn’t be longer than 7 inches or so. If you wish, you can substitute spinach, collards, or mustard greens.

SERVES 4

1 pound kale (weight with stems)

1 tablespoon oil

8 lasagna noodles

2 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, minced

1ВЅ cups ricotta cheese

1 cup (about 4 ounces) finely diced mozzarella cheese

ВЅ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Вѕ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

SAUCE

4 tablespoons butter

Вј cup unbleached white flour

3 cups milk

в…” cup tomato purГ©e

в…› teaspoon nutmeg

ВЅ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Rinse the kale well by dunking it in a large bowl of cold water. Cut off the stems and discard. If the ribs attached to the leaves are thick then rip the leaves off and discard the ribs. Roughly chop the kale, then place in a large (6-quart) saucepan with a few tablespoons of water. Cover the pot and steam the kale until it wilts and is tender, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook it or it will turn olive brown and develop a strong taste. Drain it in a colander and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile fill the same large pot with water and bring to a boil with the oil. Add the lasagna and cook until tender, not mushy. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool quickly. Drain again and toss with a little oil to prevent sticking. Set aside. (Note: You can cook the lasagna noodles the night before and chill.)
  3. When the kale is cool enough to handle, squeeze out all of the remaining moisture with your hands. Chop the kale so that it has a fine texture, but not so that it is minced. In a large skillet melt the butter. Add the garlic and onion and saut for 5 minutes. Add the kale and cook for 5 additional minutes.
  4. Place the kale mixture in a large bowl and stir in the ricotta, mozzarella, Вј cup of the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper until well blended. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350В°F.
  5. To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk until blended. Cook this roux for 2 minutes, whisking frequently. Add the milk, tomato pure, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and whisk to blend. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the sauce comes to a boil, whisking often. Remove from the heat.
  6. To assemble the lasagna: Pour a little of the sauce in a large baking dish to coat the bottom. Lay a strip of lasagna on a work surface and spread one-eighth of the kale mixture evenly over it. It doesn’t have to be perfectly covered; the filling will spread when it melts. Roll the lasagna loosely, then lay it seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 7 strips of lasagna. Pour the remaining sauce over and sprinkle on the remaining Вј cup of Parmesan cheese. May be prepared to this point up to 24 hours in advance, then covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.