Creamy Chard With Ricotta, Parmesan and Bread Crumbs
A substantial vegetable casserole, this recipe can be a green vegetable side dish or a vegetarian main course. Though a bit of a job to put together, it is a crowd-pleaser.
- Serves: 6 persons
- 3pounds chard, any color (from about 6 bunches)
- Salt and pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing the baking dish and drizzling
- 3tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2cups half-and-half or milk, plus more as needed
- Ground nutmeg, to taste
- Ground cayenne, to taste
- About 1 pound fresh ricotta
- ¾cup grated Parmesan
- ¾cup dry bread crumbs, preferably homemade
Step 1Wash chard in a deep basin of cold tap water. Remove stems and reserve for another purpose (chopped and added to vegetable soup, for instance). Chop or tear chard leaves into rough 2-inch pieces.
Step 2Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Submerge chard, turning it so it cooks evenly, and simmer over medium heat, 1 minute or so. Drain and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Step 3Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Step 4Make a béchamel: Melt butter in a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stir well and let mixture cook for a minute or so, without browning. Slowly add 2 cups half-and-half, ¼ cup at a time, whisking well as mixture thickens. Turn heat to low.
Step 5Season sauce with a good pinch of salt, a little bit of nutmeg and a speck of cayenne. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning. Consistency should be gravylike and not too thick — thin with more half-and-half as necessary.
Step 6While the sauce cooks, squeeze the cooled chard dry, and, using a large knife, cut it into ½-inch slices. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with blobs of ricotta, evenly spaced.
Step 7Pour or spoon warm béchamel over dish, covering everything evenly to the edges. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bread crumbs. Drizzle with a little olive oil in a fine stream. Bake until bubbling and nicely browned, 40 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve hot or warm.