Broccoli raab, which also is called rapini, is one of my favorite vegetables – and it’s actually not a member of the broccoli family.
The leaves and stems are edible and have a wonderful peppery bitterness. This week I’m cooking one of my favorite Sunday suppers: sausage and broccoli raab lasagna.
Though I enjoy the slightly bitter flavor of the broccoli raab, how you prepare it before adding it to the lasagna can mellow it a bit. You can begin by blanching it, draining it, then chopping and sautéing it with a little olive oil and garlic. If you enjoy the bitter flavor, skip the blanching and just chop and sauté it in the olive oil and garlic until tender, about five minutes.
Regular broccoli, cut into small pieces and blanched, can be used in place of the broccoli raab. I’ve also made a vegetarian version of the lasagna, substituting two 10-ounce packages of frozen, chopped spinach, well drained, in place of the broccoli raab and sausage.
The sausage and broccoli raab are paired with a simple Parmesan sauce, a white sauce made by combining melted butter with flour, adding milk and simmering until thickened. If you’d rather make a tomato version, substitute three cups of marinara sauce for the Parmesan sauce.
Though this isn’t a quick and easy recipe, it does use no-boil lasagna noodles, which cuts the preparation time.
This lasagna bakes up bubbly and delicious. It is best to let this rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
Toss sliced grape tomatoes with your favorite vinaigrette for a simple side dish.
SAUSAGE AND BROCCOLI RAAB LASAGNA
1 bunch broccoli raab (rapini)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic, about 2 large cloves
1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk or half and half
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
Pinch ground nutmeg, optional
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 package no-boil lasagna noodles (you will need 6-7 noodles)
12 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (or five-cheese Italian blend)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Rinse the broccoli raab, trim the ends off and blanch in the water for 2 minutes. Drain well and chop into 1-inch pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the broccoli raab and garlic and cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes. Remove and set aside in a large bowl.
Remove the sausage from casings and brown in the same pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the broccoli raab.
To prepare the sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then slowly whisk in the milk or half and half. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until thickened. Season with the salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg and stir in the grated Parmesan.
Add 2 cups of the sauce to the broccoli raab and sausage, stir to combine and set aside.
Spoon half of the remaining sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with two of the noodles. Spoon half of the broccoli raab mixture over the noodles, then sprinkle with ½ cup of the mozzarella. Repeat the layers, ending with noodles. Spread with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes, until lasagna is bubbly and cheese is beginning to brown around the corners. Set aside for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes about 6 servings.