Four-Cheese White Lasagna with Chicken and Kale

I’m amazed I managed to get this lasagna on the table this past weekend, what with all the Lifetime holiday movies that were showing.

That’s right, I’m publicly admitting to my November through December addiction to sappy, cheesy, predictable holiday movies.

(In case you also harbor a secret love for snow-filled, happily-ever-after holiday films, just try to resist this Lifetime schedule listing for the upcoming weekend: “Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus,” “Love at the Christmas Table,” and “The March Sisters at Christmas (The Modern Retelling of Little Women)”).

At any rate, I did manage to pull myself away from the TV long enough to prepare a very unique (and better-for-you!) twist on lasagna.

With Asiago and Provolone cheeses, chicken, leeks, and kale, this is a whole different kind of lasagna.

And it’s so yummy too.  “Can’t-resist-a-second-helping” yummy, in fact.

It does include tons of nutritious additions like whole wheat noodles, lean chicken, and kale, but it’s still deliciously flavorful and satisfyingly rich and cheesy.

Thanksgiving Leftover Idea: diced turkey breast would make an excellent substitute for ground chicken in this recipe!

Here are all the key ingredients you’ll need to get started.

Begin by boiling a large pot of water.

Season the water with salt and toss in some whole wheat lasagna noodles.

Cook them until they’re barely tender but still firm to the bite.

Arrange the cooked noodles on a clean counter or baking sheet so they’re not overlapping (to keep them from sticking together).

Healthier Lasagna Tip #1: If you’re worried whole wheat pasta doesn’t taste as good, try it out with this lasagna.  Whole wheat lasagna noodles add a ton more healthy, filling fiber to your meal. And in this case, the noodles are covered with delicious cheese so you’ll barely taste the difference in the final dish.

In the meantime, chop the root end and the dark green leaves off a leek.

Then thinly slice the white and pale green part of the stalk.

Separate the layers and swirl them in a large bowl filled with water to clean them.

Place your knife over a clove of garlic so it lies flat over the clove, and give it a good smash with your palm or fist.

Remove the skin and run your knife through the clove in all directions, mincing it up (if you’ve really done a great job with the “smash” step above, the mincing will be easy).

Chop the end off of a stalk of celery.

Then cut very thin slices lengthwise.

Pile up the thin slices and run your knife in the opposite direction, finely dicing the celery.

Pile up some kale leaves and chop in all directions, until you’re left with small, bite-sized pieces.

Next, grasp the top of a sprig of thyme with one hand.  Use your other hand to slide down the sprig, pulling off all the thyme leaves.

Then chop up the leaves.

Healthier Lasagna Tip #2: choose a richly flavored cheese blend. When I cook lasagna with only mozzarella, I find that I keep piling it on because (while it adds a lot of richness and creaminess) it’s kind of bland.  Instead for this lasagna, I chose two complimentary and very flavorful cheeses: Provolone and Asiago.  This way, you can use a lot less cheese and still end up with fuller flavor.  So…

grate the fresh provolone cheese …

… as well as some Asiago cheese.  (I would post a photo of this too if I hadn’t saved myself some trouble and bought the pre-shredded kind).

Heat a bit of olive oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat.

Add some ground chicken and break it apart with a wooden spoon.

Substitutions:

Diced chicken breast works just as well (I’ve tried it and actually prefer it to ground chicken).

Diced leftover turkey breast is another option.

Immediately add the leeks, garlic, and celery, and cook until the veggies have softened and the chicken is cooked through.

Add the chopped kale and cook until it’s wilted.

Season the mixture well with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, mix together some low-fat cottage cheese and some low-fat ricotta.

Healthier Lasagna Tip #3: Remember to season the cottage cheese mixture.  This makes a big, noticeable difference in the final flavor of the dish. Be sure to stir in a bit of salt and pepper…

… and then add the chopped fresh thyme, which really takes it over the top.  I promise you this: when you take your first few bites of the lasagna, you’ll notice a hint of fresh thyme, and it’s so flavorful.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Now, assemble your lasagna:

Grab a small 8 X 8 baking dish and lightly spray with a non-stick cooking spray.

Use a slotted spoon to spread a thin layer of the chicken mixture across the bottom of the pan.  Be sure to use a slotted spoon so any liquid from the cooked veggies doesn’t make it into the pan.

Next, use a spatula to spread about a third of the cottage cheese mixture all over the chicken and veggies.

Arrange a couple of the cooked lasagna noodles over that, making sure they cover the entire pan without overlapping.

Sprinkle about a third of the Asiago cheese and a third of the provolone cheese all over the noodles.  Yum!

Repeat this process twice, until you’ve nearly reached the top of the baking dish.

Lightly cover with foil and bake until the cheese is nicely melted and hot and bubbling.

And now for the step everyone always skips but shouldn’t: Do your best to allow it to rest and cool for several minutes. You will burn your tongue badly if you skip this step.  I speak from experience.

This lasagna is packed with nutritious ingredients (lean meat, whole wheat noodles, kale, leeks, garlic, celery, and fresh herbs).

Yet, what you taste is all the delicious flavor…

…And cheese.

Lots of it.

Four kinds of satisfying, richly flavorful cheese!

Here is the complete recipe:

Four-Cheese White Lasagna with Chicken and Kale
 
Total Time: 55 minutes 
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
 
Yield: 6 servings 
 
Ingredients
6 uncooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 large celery stalks, finely diced
4 ounces kale, leaves finely chopped
3/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/3 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2/3 cup grated Asiago cheese
3/4 cup grated provolone cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions
Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Boil until the noodles are tender but still firm to the bite. Drain and arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to keep them from sticking.

 

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the ground chicken and use a wooden spoon to break apart the chicken.  Immediately add the leek, garlic, and celery.  Cook until the veggies have softened and the meat is cooked through, about 7 minutes.  Add the chopped kale and cook until wilted, about 1-2 minutes.  Season well with salt and pepper.

 

In a large mixing bowl, stir and combine the cottage cheese and ricotta cheese.  Stir in the fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Coat a small 8 X 8-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Use a slotted spoon to transfer a thin layer of the chicken mixture along the bottom of the dish.  Use a spatula to spread about 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture over the chicken mixture.  Place two lasagna noodles over the cottage cheese mixture so that they fully cover the pan without overlapping.  Sprinkle about a third of the Asiago cheese and a third of the provolone cheese all over the noodles.  Repeat this process twice. Cover with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese begins bubbling.  Let stand for 10 minutes, and serve.

Leave a Reply

23 Comments

  1. November 20, 2012 / 1:26 pm

    Beautiful … I love all the green 🙂

  2. November 20, 2012 / 1:45 pm

    Oh my gosh my friend this lasagna would go down like heaven at my place it looks stunning 😀

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  3. November 20, 2012 / 3:38 pm

    My mom’s addicted to those holiday lifetime & hallmark channel movies too 😉 lol!

    This is such a cool version of lasagna, and if there’s 4 cheese in the title…obviously I’m in!

  4. November 20, 2012 / 3:47 pm

    WOW! This looks amazing! Thanks for that good tip on mixing the cheeses for the stronger flavor!

  5. November 20, 2012 / 7:19 pm

    Just found your blog and love it! This recipe looks incredible, and your pictures are all gorgeous. Love the step by step instructions, too:)

  6. November 20, 2012 / 11:12 pm

    I wonder if this recipe would work without meat or maybe sub in with beans. I’ve only watched Emeril used kale in his show…never really got chance to try it myself 😛

  7. November 20, 2012 / 11:27 pm

    I’m all for a healthified lasagna (plus I still get to enjoy four cheeses!)!

  8. November 21, 2012 / 7:47 am

    This looks fantastic! And using leftover turkey is a great idea. Thanks!

  9. November 21, 2012 / 7:51 am

    Your lasagna looks really yummy! I recently made a similar white chicken lasagna with spinach and artichokes and we loved it!
    P.S. Sometimes I find myself watching those cheesy holiday movies as well 🙂

  10. November 21, 2012 / 8:18 am

    This looks so good and tasty – love the idea with chicken and free from that heavy béchamel sauce, but how does the Lasagna stay together ???

  11. November 21, 2012 / 2:35 pm

    This is a restaurant worthy meal!! Looks great and delicious!!

  12. November 21, 2012 / 3:42 pm

    I could eat this lasagna aaaaaaaaaaaaaany day! My boyfriend likes to pretend like he’s a meat-and-veggies only kinda guy, but he’d love this dish and he’d probably snap it up faster than I could! Great going with the kale – never tried kale in lasagna and this is pure genius!

  13. mjskit
    November 21, 2012 / 7:12 pm

    That’s is cute that you are addicted to holiday movies. 🙂 The only one that I watch over and over and over again is The Christmas Story. It still cracks me up. Great looking lasagna! Love kale in anything and the cheeses you chose sound great with kale! I’m glad you found time to get this in the oven and share with us! Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday and holiday weekend!

  14. November 22, 2012 / 12:32 pm

    OK…. I am not a holiday movie person…but I love the songs!! It is always sad after the holidays, when the radio stations all switch back to the regukar old songs….LOL!

  15. November 22, 2012 / 12:57 pm

    It is very unfortunate that I am starving hungry right now and these photos are literally making me salivate. The frozen burrito I brought for lunch won’t provide much consolation either…*drool*

  16. November 25, 2012 / 4:30 am

    This looks amazing and I’ve got stacks of those veggies to eat up! Fab recipes on your site, really happy I found it!!

  17. November 26, 2012 / 12:43 am

    this looks incredibly delicious.. love the combination of chicken in a white sauce, it almost reminds me of a chicken pot pie… LOVE IT! Great way to use leftover turkey.

  18. November 28, 2012 / 12:51 am

    You had me at cheese. Lasange is my ultimate comfort food. Love this!