Greens are delicious by any standard, whether quickly wilted, stir-fried, long-cooked, or chopped for a filling. I am sorry when I see people discarding leafy tops, such as beetroot greens, as you can cook them; radish and turnip tops, too, are wonderful.
Broccoli rabe lasagna Serves 6-8
Broccoli rabe (or rapini) have buds that resemble broccoli but do not form a large head. The leaves, tender stems and broccoli-like buds have a distinctive pleasant bitterness and deep flavour.
For the béchamel sauce
— 4 tbsp butter — 30g plain flour — 260ml single cream mixed with 260ml full-fat milk, heated, plus a little more if necessary — ½ tsp salt — pinch of cayenne — grated nutmeg
For the lasagna
— 450g dried lasagna sheets
or noodles — 2 bunches broccoli rabe (about
900g), tough stems trimmed — 4 garlic cloves, grated
or minced — 130ml extra-virgin olive oil — 450g ricotta — ½ tsp grated lemon zest — 4 tbsp butter, softened — 115g Parmesan, or a combination of Parmesan and pecorino, grated
To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute, without browning.
Gradually whisk in the cream and milk mixture, about 100ml at a time, until you have a smooth, lightly thickened sauce.
Turn the heat to low, add the salt and cayenne, and nutmeg to taste, season with black pepper, and cook, whisking, for 4-5 minutes. Thin the sauce if necessary with a little more of the cream mixture – you want a pourable consistency. Place the saucepan in a sinkful of hot water to keep the sauce warm.
Bring a large pan of wellsalted water to a boil. Add the lasagna sheets or noodles and cook for five minutes. Lift them from the water with a slotted spoon or tongs and rinse well in a bowl of cold water. Drain and lay flat on a clean tea towel.
Blanch the broccoli rabe in the same cooking water for one minute, until just wilted. Drain in a colander, rinse with cool water, and squeeze dry. Roughly chop the broccoli rabe.
Put about 225g of the chopped greens, the garlic, and olive oil in a food processor or blender and purée to make the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a small bowl.
Mix the ricotta and lemon zest in a small bowl and season to taste.
Heat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Use two tablespoons of butter to grease a 20x25cm baking dish.
To assemble the dish, put a quarter of the cooked lasagna or noodles on the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon a quarter of the béchamel over the top, then dot with a third of the ricotta. Complete the layer with onethird of the chopped greens, a good drizzle of pesto, and about a quarter of the grated cheese. Continue the layering, finishing with the last of the béchamel, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan (you will have four layers of pasta and three layers of filling). Dot the top with the remaining two tablespoons of butter. (The lasagna can be assembled in advance and left at room temperature for up to three hours.)
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 minutes more, or until nicely browned on top and bubbling.
Let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes before serving. (Or set aside for up to several hours and reheat in the oven before serving.) More recipes overleaf