Kale and Potato Lasagna*

May 21, 2008

*Or, Mastering the Legacy of Mush and Goo


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As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

When I was a kid, my mother was a fairly conventional 1960s housewife (well, except for the Valium) whose cooking style, too, adhered to convention; she’d cook pretty much the same seven dinners every week, according to the day: Mondays were hamburgers and mashed potatoes.  Tuesdays were veal chops and green beans.  Wednesdays were franks and beans. Fridays were chicken soup or roast chicken (but this changed to salmon patties and twice-baked potatoes, after one of her Mah Jong friends clipped a recipe from Good Housekeeping and passed it along). 

Only on the very rare occasion did Mom diverge from the predetermined pattern, if she saw a particularly intriguing recipe in Chatelaine, perhaps, or if my aunt cooked something she tasted and really liked.  Then Mom would pick up the ingredients during that week’s grocery shopping, and we’d have something new for a change.

One week, she decided to tackle homemade lasagna.  Never mind that she had never made it before. Never mind that it was a multi-step, fairly complex process. Never mind that my aunt–the inspiration for this experiment–was a professional caterer and could make a lasagna with one hand tied behind her apron. My mother decided we were going to have lasagna, and, dammit, that’s what she made. 

Well, sort of. 

I returned home from school that day to a scene worthy of the set of Psycho:  kitchen walls splattered with thick, wayward splotches of red, the stovetop covered in equally abundant patches of tomato sauce that had spewed from a teeming pot of sauce; topless, half-emptied cartons of cottage cheese and grated mozzarella littered across every surface, and detritus of carrot shavings, onion peel, and celery stalks strewn over and beside the wooden cutting board. 

It did smell heavenly, though.  My sisters and I waited patiently, watching Happy Days reruns, as we dreamt of thick, saucy hunks of lasagna, the long, ruffled noodles padded with meat, cheese, and my mother’s own sauce. But any aspirations of heavenly hunks were quickly dashed when my mother cut in to the first piece. The noodles (having been parboiled according to package directions, before being layered with the sauce and cheese) had practically disintegrated in the casserole dish, leaving only a mass of mushy, oozing goo.  She didn’t attempt lasagna again for quite some time.

When I finally got my own apartment as an undergraduate, I was determined to conquer the fractious pasta.  I cooked up a huge batch of my favorite spaghetti sauce with ground beef, chopped celery, peppers and carrots, accented with oregano and lots of basil.  I had my cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan) at the ready.  And, unlike my mother, I was savvy enough to take advantage of modern conveniences: I purchased pre-parboiled noodles, so that they could be laid, stiff and uncooked, right into the casserole dish with the sauce and cheeses.  I layered, I smoothed the top, I popped it into the oven, feeling pretty satisfied with myself.

About an hour later, I was drawn by the heavenly smell.  But any aspirations of success were quickly dashed when I cut into the first slice. . . which was a mass of mushy, oozing goo.  Needless to say, I had no desire to cook lasagna again for quite some time. 

One of the imperatives of my “Total Health” course is to eat more greens (and more on the course, below).  In searching the Internet for greens recipes, I came across the ubiquitous Potato and Kale Enchiladas on the Post Punk Kitchen discussion forum.  Now, I know it must seem lately that I’m shilling for Moskowitz & Romero (no, not the Las Vegas act; the vegan cookbook authors) given how many times I’ve mentioned their recipes on this blog recently.  But since kale is my favorite leafy green, and since the recipe was right in front of me, I decided to use it–sort of.  Having no tortillas in the house, I dug out a box of rice lasagna I’d bought on a whim months ago. Did I dare to try another lasagna experiment?  What the heck; I decided to live on the (stiff, ruffled) edge. 

Potatoes and noodles?  Yes, it’s an unconventional twist on that traditional dish. But I’m here to tell you, it worked.  Not only was the kale-potato filling hardy enough to support the layers of noodles, the lasagna itself complied and baked up perfectly; firm, cooked throughout, with neither mush nor goo anywhere in sight. It cut beautifully into semi-solid, clearly defined squares.  And the combination of potato, kale, tomato sauce and pumpkin seeds was a delightful, unusual and winning carnival of tastes.

This was a terrific dinner, one that would satisfy even the most avowed lasagna-lover.   The HH thoroughly enjoyed it (I believe his exact words were, “hmmmn, not so bad for vegetarian lasagna”), and The Girls were happy to help with the leftovers (“It may not be steak, but it was still good, Mum! And you might recall that we love kale.”) Next time you’re feeling adventurous in the kitchen, I recommend giving this this one a try.

And since I’ve finally made another pasta dish, I’m submitting this to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, for the weekly Presto Pasta night roundup.

 Potato and Kale Lasagna (based on PPK recipe)









21 Responses to “Kale and Potato Lasagna*”

  1. VeggieGirl Says:

    What a fun glimpse into your childhood :0)

    It sure looks like you conquered making the lasagna, to me!! Love the kale & potato variety – yum!!

    I read a lot about Ayurveda, and how to eat according to one’s dosha – very interesting stuff!!

    “Or, as the HH would say, I’m just a Libra. ” TOO FUNNY :0D

  2. VeggieGirl Says:

    P.S. – I’m 100% a Vata :0)

  3. I guess the cooking messes of our mothers gives us more place to grow in the kitchen, doesn’t it? at least we don’t have to live to their expectations, because any food is better than burnt food, hehe. I’m talking about my mother, not yours, of course!
    I love your lasagna, I only cooked lasagna once and it was alright, I could try again!

  4. Mihl Says:

    I have a mum with similar cooking skills (and still love her). You wont believe it but about five minutes ago I had a look at the potato and kale enchiladas in Veganomicon and thought that they are definitely worth a try. But your lasagna looks great too. Oh, what should I do now?

  5. That lasagna looks great! Thanks for the Ayurveda link!

  6. Romina Says:

    I wish I had hilarious memories like that! My mom is such a perfectionist in the kitchen, there was never something she couldn’t do. I don’t know how she does it.

    This lasagna sounds PERFECT. I’m always afraid to make enchiladas, but lasagna is something I know how to make, thanks for the recipe!!

  7. holler Says:

    You did a good job on that lasagne, it looks really tasty!
    My mum made really good macaroni cheese, but never atempted any other pasta dishes as far as I remember. I know she would enjoy this!

  8. shellyfish Says:

    I loved your story! Adorable! I want to try this, just need to figure out what I would use to sub kale (which I can’t really get here, but miss terribly).

  9. Johanna Says:

    at least we know where you got your enthusiasm for experimenting from! at least your mum had a go at it 🙂 I haven’t had problems with lasagne but i have always avoided the noodles that need preboiling (I did make my dad a tofu lasagne once when I first went vegetarian that he was very polite about)

    Lasagna is a favourite with me and i love your version – potato and kale is not something i would think to put in lasagne but after a good experience with potato in tacos I am game! Glad you have found a lasagne both you and hh can love

  10. Meg Wolff Says:

    I loved this post. It reminded me of my Mum, too. Always home, always one of the several dishes we ate each week along with cookies (for dessert, of course). Even when she went back to work when we were teen-agers we still had home-cooked meals (until I became addicted to junk food)another story.

    This potato & kale lasagne looks delicious, Ricki!

  11. Jackie Says:

    Enjoyed reading about your mom thoroughly – and think it’s wonderful to keep her memories alive.

    This lasagna looks great! I’ve had my foibles with lasagna, too but once you get a good one it seems it gets easier! 🙂

    Thanks for a great share.

  12. Ha! Valium is very 1960’s…that made me chuckle.

    And your lasagna looks delish!

  13. I like the second title better ;o). But no matter the title, that lasagna looks terrific. You’re so creative in the kitchen—who else would’ve thought to morph an enchilada recipe into lasagna?!

  14. Sue Says:


    That lasagna looks fabulous. I love the PPK too – great fighting attitude! Need some healthy kale myself – just done a post about how much chocolate I’ve been eating… Uh-oh.

    It’s funny what we inherit from our mothers. Mine was ahead of her time and we ate ratatouille and bean salad when nobody else had heard of it. We were considered ‘weird’ because we ate our dinner at night rather than at lunch time. We were also considered weird for all sorts of other reasons, but that’s another story… However, as well as the healthy beans, my mum also used to stash chocolate bars behind the dishtowels in the kitchen drawers… She still doesn’t know I know! I think I inherited both tendencies…

    Take care,


  15. bee Says:

    this is truly gorgeous.

  16. Ruth Says:

    Great post and fantastic looking lasagna, thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  17. Ricki Says:

    How cool that you study Ayurveda–would love to learn more about my Vata half and what I should eat! Glad you liked the lasagna, too 🙂

    I do owe my mom a lot for my love of cooking (and especially baking)–if not for her, I may never have wanted to experiment!

    Make both, I say 🙂 ! I loved the combination in the lasagna, but I think the enchiladas would have been great if I’d had the tortillas.

    Thanks! Have fun with your dosha 🙂

    Lucky for you your mother is great in the kitchen (I bet that translated into many delicious meals). And double lucky you that you’re already a pro at lasagna!

    Thanks–and it only took about 20 years! 😉 Mac and cheese sounds pretty good, actually.

    I think pretty much any green leafy would do (collards, chard, even spinach)–hopefully at least one of those is plentiful!

    I’d never thought of it that way, but yes, at least she WAS willing to try it! The potatoes actually went well here, as I imagine they would do in tacos as well. I once had potatoes on a PIZZA–weird, but good. 🙂

    Thanks so much. Sounds like our mums were similar in some ways–mine also went back to work when we kids were older. But (almost) always in the kitchen!

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and for your comment! I hope you’re right–now that I’ve got this one to work out, I think I’ll stick to the same recipe next time. 🙂

    Thanks so much for your comment, and for visiting my blog! Glad to provide a chuckle. (Looks like you’ve got an up-and-running one already yourself! Oh, and great wedding dress!). 🙂

    I liked the 2nd one better, too 😉 . Oh, and as they say, necessity. . .

    Wow. I want to go over to YOUR mom’s house after school! I never even heard of ratatouille until I was in my 20s or 30s! And the chocolate? I hear you. . . .

    Thanks so much!

    Thanks for stopping by! I always enjoy the PPNs; just wish I could get organized to make pasta more often!

  18. Cmoore Says:

    That looks SO GOOD. Yum. When I have a kitchen again…

  19. Ricki Says:

    Yikes–sorry to hear you don’t have a kitchen now! I’d deliver if I could. . . 🙂

  20. Lisa Says:

    This sounds wonderful. I never would have imagined a lasagna without cheese, but here we have one!

  21. Ricki Says:

    It seemed a bit weird to make it that way, but the result didn’t need the cheese at all!

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