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.
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…
Lots of it.
Four kinds of satisfying, richly flavorful cheese!
Here is the complete recipe: