A rut-buster. That’s what this recipe is all about. Veering off the road a little bit, getting out of the ordinary. Traditional lasagna is a good thing, make no mistake, but it’s nice to go in a different direction every once in a while. Move away from the meat sauce to a creamy white lasagna, laced with salty prosciutto.
This lasagna is rich and creamy, but the flavor of chicken and the herbaceous note of rosemary make this fresh and bright. I originally created this recipe for a birthday dinner for my Mom and nephew, who share a birthday, and it has been favorite ever since. This makes a great party dish (it was a hit my recent book club-hosting turn) or an equally fantastic family meal. I often prepare the recipe in two 8 by 8 inch foil pans, rather than the big 9 by 13 inch standard, so I can freeze one or share it with friends or family. I generally buy fresh lasagna pasta sheets from a local shop that sells fresh pasta products. I have to ask, but they are always happy to cut some for me. If you can’t find fresh, dried no-boil noodles work beautifully and are easy to find. I prefer flat ones to the wavy-edge variety, largely because I think that ruffled type makes my finished product look store-bought, and I surely don’t want to create that effect!
Chicken, Prosciutto and Rosemary Lasagna
Chop the rosemary as finely as possible. If you have an electric spice grinder or small food processor, this is a great time to use it. When I have all the chicken shredded and the prosciutto torn, I make two or four equal little piles (depending on whether I am making one big lasagna or two smaller ones) and do the same with the cheese so I have the perfect amount on each layer.
4 boneless, skinless split chicken breasts
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup water
5 stalks fresh rosemary
1¼ cups (1 ½ sticks) butter
½ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 ½ cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, from about 3 stalks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (9 ounce) package flat no-boil lasagna noodles
¼ pound thinly sliced prosciutto
In a large saucepan, combine the chicken breasts, broth and water. Add the 5 rosemary stalks and cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. (If you have an instant-read thermometer the temperature should be 160 degrees). Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Rinse out the pan, wipe dry and return to the heat. Melt the butter over medium heat then whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly, until smooth and pale, about 8 minutes. Slowly add the reserved cooking liquid, whisking, then the milk and cream. Continue whisking until thickened and smooth. Whisk in 3/4 cup of the cheese, nutmeg, the chopped rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste (add just enough salt to be almost perfect – remember that the prosciutto will add saltiness.).
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces with your hands or two forks. Cut the prosciutto into bite size pieces with kitchen scissors or roughly tear it up.
Spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch or two 8 by 8 inch square pans. Top with lasagna noodles, breaking some in half if you need to fit the dish. Sprinkle the chicken, prosciutto and a 1/3 of the remaining grated cheese. Spoon over 1/3 of the remaining sauce and spread the layer out. Repeat with another layer. Whether you make one large dish or two small, there should be three layers of noodles and two of chicken-prosciutto. Finish with a layer of noodles, and spread over the last of the sauce, spreading out to cover the noodles. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. The lasagna can be kept covered in the fridge at this point for up to a day, or wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil and frozen for up to a month. If frozen, thaw completely overnight in the fridge, then bake.
Preheat the oven to 350 degree and bake the lasagna until heated through and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let the lasagna sit for several minutes before serving.