Pasta-less Lasagna Rolls ((so tasty, you won’t even miss the pasta!!))
Have I mentioned the status of my rainbow chard lately?? I am amazed, these plants are flourishing! They are huge, healthy, happy & gorgeous. Over the last several years, I have begun integrating edible plants into my flower beds, I am starting a new trend – edible ornamental gardening. It pleases me deep in my soul. Visitors are often questioning, what is that – It’s gorgeous!? When I tell them it’s edible they are always surprised. I proceed to walk them around all of the beds, pointing out all of the edible treats I have tucked and nestled among my trees & flowers.
I currently have lemongrass, kale, mustard greens, rainbow chard, thyme, chives, russet potatoes & strawberries worked into my ‘ornamental beds’. It is so fun and handy (not to mention beautiful). We have a run on wild bunnies in our yard – they have not bothered anything in my beds ((yet)). I thought I had hidden my crops well, but yesterday I found a sneaky wild bunny hopping among my chard, I am sure she hopped back to her hole and shared her find with all her bunny brothers and sisters! I am keeping a careful watch now.
Well, with all the success I am experiencing in the chard department, my mind is churning and working overtime to find yummy ways to incorporate chard into my menu. The real trick is how to use more chard without causing the kiddos to cry hard and fake vomit while sitting at the dinner table.
I don’t know that I will ever come up with a solution for that age-old problem, but I have developed a yummy chard recipe that I am in love with! A few months back, a friend charged me with the task of recreating one of her favorite ((mine too!)) dishes at a local restaurant: lasagna rolls.
Lasagna Rolls are cheesy, crisp, filled with 2 perfectly cooked, tender shrimp, a leaf or 2 of baby spinach and a healthy serving of parmesan & mozzarella. Sometimes, the rolls are also filled a few dollops of ricotta cheese. The best part: they are topped with the perfect combination of creamy alfredo & spicy marinara and another heap of melted buttery parmesan cheese. Perfection on a plate. My mouth is watering just because I am visiting this meal in my memories. They are that good.
Well, I am in a certain phase in my life where creamy, cheesy, buttery mouthfuls deliciousness are a rare privilege. (sniff) Even still, I must eat & I want it to be tasty. I love the challenge of re-inventing a classic treat and turning it into something that reflects the original taste & idea – but is lighter & healthier without skimping on the taste.
With the first bite, I knew: it worked! The flavors reminded me of that meal I know & love. I omitted several things from the original version: I bet you are curious – so here is the list:
- no alfredo (ouch)
- no butter
- no pasta (really??)
- no spinach
- no mozzarella (I must be crazy)
Here is the list of replacements:
- sharp white cheddar
- sweet basil leaves
- whole chard leaves
- a tiny smudge of sweet Italian sausage
At this point I can almost read your mind: ‘This is an entirely different dish!’. Well, it may seem like it – but the eyes are not the final judge – here at Food for a Year the tastebuds are king (or queen – whatever). I hope you will enjoy my lightened-up version of this classic as much as hubby & I did. ‘What about the kiddos?’ you ask?? There was no way I would put this meal on their plate. They were crying before these rolls even went into the oven!
I rarely do it, but I actually made 2 separate meals for dinner. Here is the proof – my kitchen was a disaster! They were happy and I was happy. Sometimes that is a price I am willing to pay. Other times it’s not.
- 4 rainbow chard leaves (plain chard will work too)
- 3/4 c ricotta cheese (skim ricotta is fine)
- 1 small egg
- 1-2 T of each fresh thyme, chives & parsley, chopped
- 8 whole leaves of sweet basil
- 4 oz hand-shredded sharp white cheddar
- 8 raw medium shrimp (tails removed)
- 4 crumbles (about 1 T each) of ground, browned sweet Italian sausage*
- sea salt & freshly ground pepper
- 4 - 1 oz slices of parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°. Fill a large pot 2/3 full with water & bring to a boil.
- While waiting on water to boil, prepare the ricotta mixture by combining all ricotta ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
- Once water is boiling, dip each chard leaf into the water (one at a time) for about 10 seconds. Tap off excess water and the lay the leaves out to dry on a few paper towels. Repeat with each leaf.
- Cut the center stem out of each leaf, taking caution not to cut the leaf completely in half.
- Place 2 T of ricotta cheese mixture at one end of the leaf, top with 2 shrimp & 1 piece of cooked sausage. Stack two leaves of basil, gently roll the leaves lengthwise & chop into thin slivers (aka chiffonade two basil leaves). Top shrimp with cut basil & 1 T of shredded cheddar. Season with salt & pepper.
- Roll each leaf up as if you are rolling a burrito. Place each roll into a shallow baking dish (8"X8"). Top the rolls with 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, sprinkle with remaining cheddar, dollop remaining ricotta around the rolls and top with the slices of parmesan. Sprinkle the top of the rolls with additional salt & pepper.
- Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- *You can easily omit the sweet Italian sausage if you don't have any on hand. I reserved some when I was previously simultaneously a lasagna. You could also substitute one T of pre-cooked sausage crumbles.