This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs the theme is Lighten Up - C'mon Get Healthy, I know you're probably thinking, hold up a minute, what is lightened up on that big plate of creamy lasagna? Well, not too much actually, but I was trying to be healthy by adding a new veggie to my family's food radar...radicchio!
This bright purple leafy vegetable is said to "provide an antioxidant content rivaling that of blueberries and spinach" -- if you would like to read about how healthy radicchio is, check out this site. My only real experience with radicchio is restaurant salads, I'd never purchased or prepared it myself, and I figured if any preparation could win someone (specifically my picky kids) over, it'd be a delicious creamy lasagna.
Lasagne di RadicchioTessa Kiros -- Venezia
1 and 3/4 lb radicchio di Treviso (I could not find this specific radicchio and just used the round kind, also my two heads of it were more like 1 pound total)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced (I left this off)
1/4 cup white wine
24 lasagna noodles, about 10 by 2 and 1/2 inches (this ended up being a whole standard sized box for me)
6 tablespoons grated parmesan
a blob of butter (I used this but I don't really think it was necessary and would skip it next time)
7 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup all purpose flour
3 cups warm milk -- I used skim
a good grating of nutmeg
recipe preface: This is as lovely and bitter as radicchio itself, so you have to like the beautiful leaf to appreciate this lasagne.
Cut away and discard the tough white stalk from the bottom of the radicchio. Roughly cut up the rest into chunky strips along the length, wash, and drain.
Heat 5 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skittet and saute the onion until soft and pale golden. Add the wine and cook until evaporated.
Add the radicchio, cover, and simmer over low heat until it surrenders its hardness. Add salt and pepper and cook, stirring now and then with a wooden spoon, until it is soft and there is hardly any liquid left in the skillet. Remove the lid for the last 5 minutes or so.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, and add the last tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the pasta according to the time given on the package, or until almost cooked (it will all go in the oven and continue cooking). Remove, refresh in cold water, and lay out the noodles on a baking sheet lined with clean dishcloths, making a couple of layers as necessary to accommodate all the pasta. I just bring the water to a boil, cook the noodles for 2 or 3 minutes, then remove from heat and start assembling the lasagna while the noodles sit in the pot of hot water, seems to work well for me that way and they don't get over done.
Make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Whisk the flour into the butter, then add a little salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes, stirring. Reduce the heat to low, then begin adding the warm milk. It will be immediately absorbed, so work quickly, whisking with one hand while slowly pouring the milk with the other. When the sauce is smooth and thick, add the nutmeg, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool (it should thicken even more. Adjust the seasoning.
Preheat the oven to 350. Assemble the lasagne.
Dollop 2 large serving spoonfuls of bechamel sauce into the bottom of the oven dish, spreading it to cover.
Lay 6 sheets of pasta over the bechamel, overlapping them in necessary. Six lasagne sheets was too much for my pan, I could get 5 in there while overlapping. Splatter half of the radicchio (not in a neat perfect layer) -- I did a little less than half so I could distribute it more evenly through more layers -- over the pasta.
Dollop some more bechamel over the radicchio and spread gently here and there. SCatter with about 2 tablespoons of the parmesan. Now add another layer of pasta, the rest of the radicchio -- once again, I used it more sparingly since I wanted it distributed in more than two layers, -- some more bechamel (not all of it, save 1/2 cup for the top, and another couple of tablespoons of parmesan. Add the final layer of pasta and cover roughly with the rest of the bechamel. Sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan and add a few blobs of butter. I did add the butter but it was not needed at all and just kind of pooled around on the top, which I was not a fan of.
Bake for 20 to 40 minutes until lovely and crusty here and there. Allow to cool a little before serving. Serves 6 to 8.
I made this one evening while picky husband was working late, hoping to get the kids interested in a new vegetable. Unfortunately the bitter radicchio was just a touch too exotic (read bitter!) for my kids. My daughter liked the lasagna but picked out most of the radicchio. My boys only had a few bites, but they are not really into white sauces, so I think that had more to do with it than the radicchio. I thought the lasagna was delicious but it was a little tough to love the radicchio bites since they were just that bitter. When I started making this, my daughter guessed that the radicchio was red cabbage and I was kind of wishing it was red cabbage while I was eating it in the lasagna, sorry radicchio! I think that if you are a radicchio lover and have grown up eating radicchio often you would adore this lasagna, but for me it seemed to be an acquired taste that I don't absolutely love just yet. It is definitely growing on me though and I would make this again for sure.