Rainy Day Lasagna

[Rain on the road, October 2007.]

We runners are a funny bunch. On a chilly, drippy day like today, most sane people would be curled up inside with a book and a cup of tea, or stirring a pot of soup, letting the house get warm and steamy. But to the runner, Saturday morning is prime running time, rain or no rain. Today I was definitely that person you look at and think, what? It’s raining! You’re crazy!

But listen: When I started out, it was just a little drizzly, and sometimes — honestly — I do love a good run in the rain. No, I’m serious! It’s not just obsessivess — there’s something special about dodging the drops. Not too many other people are out and about (although, surprisingly, there were a decent amount of runners today, and we all sort of nodded at each other as we passed silently by), and though I love the sun, the fog is nice, too. As I went deeper into the park the rain increased; not sure if this was because I was getting infinitesimally closer to the ocean, or because the rain was just picking up. In any case, I was thoroughly soaked by the time I reached my 2.5-mile turnaround.

As I ran, I thought a bit about Ryan Shay, the runner who collapsed last weekend during the Olympic Marathon Trials in New York. He was just 28, and recently married, and life truly doesn’t make sense sometimes. I suppose it sounds silly, but I felt like my five miles today were in memory of him a little, and in solidarity with all the rest of us who lace up our shoes and get out there even when it we’re tired, or it hurts, or it’s freezing cold. Wiping the water out of my eyes, I thought about how lucky I am that I get to be outside, breathing this air in the this lovely city on this Saturday afternoon — yes, even in the rain (I tried to look at it like I was getting a free shower).

So then I came home and drank a hot cup of tea to warm up, and wished I had a piece of lasagna. Not just any lasagna, mind, but a very nontraditional, very different, very delicious chard-potato-and-pesto lasagna.

When I was first presented with a plate of this pasta, I didn’t mind at all that it was sans the familiar red sauce. Maybe a small part of me thought, potato and chard in a lasagna? hmmmmm …., but since I love potatoes, and I love chard, and I love pesto, I figured I’d like it well enough.

Uh, yeah, I did (I feel like I’m channeling Kate here). Why would I even hesitate? I think I like this version of lasagna better than the usual kind — for one thing, it’s somehow less heavy, even if it still has lots of cheese, and I wouldn’t consider potatoes necessarily light, but somehow, it works. Salty, creamy, a little cripsy, and then conversely soft from the piles of chard, each bite almost floats its way into your mouth. A jumble of sauteed vegetables, such as carrots and green beans or squash, and a simple green salad provide a bit of snap alongside.

[Untraditional lasagna, October 2007.]

This is especially good to eat after you’ve logged some miles on the road, so you don’t feel guilty about all that cheese — but really, we should never feel guilty about eating wonderful and delicious cheese. I take it back.

Lasagna with pesto, Yukon golds, and Swiss chard, from mom, by way of the SF Chronicle

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes
1 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed
8 ounces lasanga sheets
18 ounces ricotts
1/2 cup parmesan
1 to 1 1/4 cups pesto
14 ounces mozzarella (she uses less)
1/2 bunch basil, leaves roughly chopped
1 cup pesto
salt and pepper to taste

Oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 13-by-9 inch baking pan and a large cookie sheet with olive oil. Bring a large pot of salted water to a oil.

Put the potatoes in another, medium pot, and cover with well-salted water by two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender with pierced with a knife (about 20 minutes). Drain, let cool slightly, then quickly peel and slice about 1/4-inch thick.

Meanwhile, blanch the chard in the large pot in two batches until tender (note: I think quickly sauteeing/steaming in a pan would work just as well). Remove with a slotted spoon and keep the water at a boil for the pasta, then roughly chop the chard leaves and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Return to a colander to drain.

Cook the pasta until al dente (when draining, reserve a little of the water). Place on the large cookie sheet, cover with wax paper and top with more pasta.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta and parmesan cheeses.

To assemble, line the bottom of the baking pan with two sheets of pasta, overlapping a bit. Dollop the top with spoonfuls of half the cheese mixture. Drizzle or dollop with pesto. Cover with the potato slices, placed ended to end, filling in any gaps with half-rounds. Season with salt and pepper. Top with one cup of the mozzaralla, then half the basil.

Add another layer of noodles, the remaining cheese mixture, the rest of the pesto, all of the chard, one cup of mozzarella, and the remaining basil.

Add a final layer of pasta and cover with the remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Put under the broiler for 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest 20 minutes before serving.

Note the second: This looks like a lot of work, but is it worth mentioning that even if it is, once you taste the results you totally won’t mind?

Join the Conversation

  1. This actually looks great to me- the more cheese the better in my book.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

  2. I agree that lasagna is worth the work. I love swiss chard, but haven’t used it in lasagna before, though I’ve made plenty with spinach. This also struck me as the perfect ingredients for a frittata–potatoes, chard, pesto and a little cream.

  3. I almost dragged myself out of bed to go running, but I went back to bed after hearing the rain start. But look at you! Nicely done, I wish I could’ve mustered up the strength to get out… Great food by the way.

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