Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Pimiento-Collard Lasagna

© Constantine William Spyrou

One of the best ways to keep yourself thinking of new dishes and ideas is to take something you've made before and give it a new twist. It keeps things exciting and interesting, and allows you to fall back on things you know while having some innovative thought behind the dish. 

One of my favorite dishes I've ever made was the first one that ever went on this blog: the Italian Country Polenta "Sandwich". I liked this recipe because it inspired me to make more innovative fusions like the Italian-Southern blend this recipe had, whilst keeping a great balance of flavors through multiple layers in the dish. The other day, I was thinking about that dish and how good it would be as a lasagna. This led to me coming up with this recipe. 

This lasagna will have all of the elements of the original recipe, but done from scratch and with a few twists. Instead of wild arugula, however, I will be adding a vinegary and peppery note with some braised collard greens as part of the lasagna. The basil-mascarpone mixture will be substituted for a basil-ricotta-marinara spread. Instead of polenta encasing the amazing flavors, I'll be utilizing lasagna sheets and some extra Parmesean to create an irresistible dish!

Recipe for the fillings makes 3 lasagnas in a 2-quart baking dish that can each serve up to 12 people. We will be making one lasagna for this.

For the Ricotta Mixture:

3 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to season

For the Pimiento Cheese: 

1/2 pound grated Pepper Jack Cheese
1/2 pound grated White Cheddar Cheese
1/2 pound shaved/grated Parmigiano Reggiano
4 ounces diced pimientos
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Pepper to season (no salt because the parmigiano reggiano provides enough saltiness to the cheese)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Green Tabasco (or your favorite hot sauce)
2/3 cup mayonnaise

For the Collard Greens:

2 pounds collard greens
1/2 pound ham hock, whole
1/2 gallon chicken stock
Salt and pepper to season
1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup dried oregano
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 cloves minced garlic

For the Italian Sausage:

1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons coriander
Salt and pepper to season

Additional Lasagna Ingredients:

12 lasagna sheets, dried
1 cup shaved parmigiano Reggiano
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup marinara sauce


1. Combine the ingredients for the Ricotta mix together well, and set aside for lasagna construction.

2. Do the same thing for the Pimiento Cheese mixture.

3. Combine all of the ingredients for the Italian sausage, then fry off in a hot pan with some olive oil until fully cooked, about 10-12 minutes.

4. Add your chicken stock to a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add in the white vinegar, ham hock, spices for the collard greens, and collard greens, and cook down for about 45 minutes or until the ham hock is basically disintegrated and the collard greens are tender.

5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

6. Cover the baking dish with olive oil, followed by half of the marinara sauce. Add a half pound of your ricotta mixture and flatten out to fully cover the baking dish. Sprinkle a quarter pound of the Italian Sausage over the top, then place 6 lasagna sheets over the top. 6 normal lasagna sheets should cover the baking dish in this recipe.

7. Place a half pound of the Pimiento cheese over the lasagna sheet layer, flattening out once again. Add a half pound of the collard greens and a half pound of the Italian sausage over the top, then place a lasagna sheet over the top.

8. Top the lasagna sheet with a quarter pound of the ricotta mixture. Cover with the remaining marinara sauce, and dot with the halved tomatoes and parmigiano reggiano.

9. Cover the tray with tin foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover, and bake for another 20 minutes.

10. Cut the lasagna into portions, and serve with fresh basil if you wish.

This dish keeps the great elements of the Italian-Southern fusion of the polenta sandwich, but also adds some new elements such as a vinegary note from the collards to cut through the rich lasagna. The fresh and bright tomatoes and basil as a garnish also add a new acidic note to the dish, which has a good balance of salty, spicy, and savory within it.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

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