Swiss chard is the cook’s companion and the gardener’s constant friend. In an autumn wild with wind, sun and rain, of no petrol, no drivers and, sometimes, no ingredients, chard is there, easy and quick to grow in beds, pots and window boxes and, as soon as you cut it, it comes back, giving you leaf upon leaf, stalk upon stalk. Rainbow chard adds exuberant colour to your plate, while white chard has that subtle, sweet flavour. It is all around right now, and adds real depth to this thoroughly delicious lasagne.
Swiss chard, pancetta, leek and ricotta lasagne
Look out for chard with thick stems, as they give the lasagne a lovely texture. I like to make a large one, so I can freeze half, but halve the recipe if you’d like enough to feed just four to six.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
1kg Swiss chard
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
200g pancetta cubes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp thyme leaves
3 leeks, trimmed, sliced and washed
Salt and black pepper
2 egg yolks
100g grated parmesan
200g creme fraiche
500g dry lasagne sheets
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Wash the chard and rip the leaves off the stems. Cut the stems into 1cm-thick slices, then cut the leaves into roughly 2-3cm-wide ribbons (they will wilt down and shrink in the sauce).
Warm the olive oil in your largest casserole over a medium heat, then fry the pancetta for five to six minutes, until it begins to release some of its fat and begins to colour around the edges. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook for two minutes more, until it is soft and smelling fragrant. Add the leeks and chard stems, season well and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until everything is soft.
Stir in the chard leaves, still dripping with water, cover the pan and steam for three to five minutes, until the leaves have wilted. Stir in half the ricotta, 250ml water and season to taste.
Combine the remaining ricotta with the egg yolks, 70g parmesan and creme fraiche in a bowl and season generously.
Spread a quarter of the chard mix over the bottom of a very large baking dish. Now layer with uncooked lasagne sheets, the ricotta mix and more chard until you have three to four layers, finishing with the ricotta mix. Sprinkle over the remaining 30g parmesan, drizzle with a little oil, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until golden on top.
Leave to cool slightly before serving with a lovely green salad.
The simple flex…
You could leave out the pancetta, but bump up the flavour by adding fennel to the leeks and nutmeg to the ricotta. There are several good cashew nut ricottas available now, too.