For my family the only food we associated with Easter was candy– cheap chocolaty pastel candy. Easter Sunday we would have nice meal, but, since my Mom had no stomach for lamb, there was nothing more special than a little ham on the table which I avoided with a near religious fervor.
Until earlier today I had assumed that James’ family had a similar non-tradition, and if there was a tradition it had gone the way of all the other once-adored meat dishes. However, today while he was talking with his Grandfather, Baba, asked if we were making lasagna. Turns out, for some Italian American families the lasagna can symbolize the abundance of the occasion and the season, and a lasagna with spring vegetables, fresh ham, and boiled eggs is the ideal Easter entree.
James made lasagna noodles in the same way we made the ravioli dough earlier this year. For the filings we used Swiss chard, which is available in abundance now, and a pesto using the year’s first sweet basil.
- Prepared or homemade lasagna noodles. If you are using prepared noodles, follow boiling instructions on box. If using fresh or homemade noodles, you do not have to preboil them.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 quart whole tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- a handful of fresh basil, chopped
Swiss Chard Filling
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, ribbed and coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 pound firm tofu
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Three cups packed basil
- 1/2 cup raw almonds (or other tree nut)
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt to taste
- In a large sauce pot heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms until their liquid is expressed.
- Add onions, garlic, and carrots and continue to saute until the onions are soft and just beginning to brown.
- Add oregano and heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and balsamic vinegar and bring to a simmer. Reduce to medium-low heat and continue simmering until thick, about 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add basil and set aside.
- To make the Swiss chard filling, combine ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- To make the pesto filling, combine basil, almonds, and garlic in the food processor. Drizzle with olive oil until the pesto processes. Continue blending until smooth and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- To assemble the lasagna, add half of the sauce to the bottom of the lasagna dish. Top with one layer of noodles, then add half the Swiss chard filling and smooth over the noodles. Add a second layer of noodles then smooth the pesto on top. Add a third layer of noodles and top with the remaining Swiss chard filling. Top with a final layer of noodles then the remaining sauce.
- Cover the dish with foil, then bake the lasagna at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, add a healthy dusting of grated parmesan cheese, then place back in the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes more.
- Let the lasagna cool for about 10 minutes, then serve!