Stovetop Spring Chicken Lasagna

With the early arrival of spring this year—the equinox occurred on Monday, March 21—it’s a good time to start thinking about ways of incorporating the changing seasonal produce even if it still feels like winter outside. Warm, satisfying comfort foods like braised dishes, casseroles and skillet meals don’t necessarily need to be heavy and nap-inducing in order to hit the spot. By swapping out leaner proteins for fatty red meat, changing up the produce from hearty greens and root vegetables to lighter, quick-cooking options, and reducing or eliminating the use of cream and cheese, a typical snowy weather dish can be transformed into something appropriate for a spring luncheon.

Stovetop spring lasagna.alert1 medical alerts

Case in point: lasagna. Here, we provide a fresher, lighter deviation from the typical meat- and cheese-heavy noodle bake drenched in tomato sauce. Instead, a combination of spring vegetables (leeks, fennel, mushrooms and asparagus) and a moderate amount of ground chicken are interspersed between imperfectly arranged layers of lasagna noodles. There’s no actual sauce, but the addition of fresh herbs and lemon zest gives the lasagna plenty of flavor. Think of it as the white pizza version of lasagna. A combination of ricotta and Danish fontina cheeses dolloped on top during the last leg of cooking ensures that the dish is appropriately cheesy, but that it still has more “stuff” than cheese.

Not All Lasagna is Created Equal

Another big difference between this lasagna and most others is that it is not cooked in a large baking dish in the oven, but in a nonstick skillet, entirely on the stovetop. Why is this useful? For starters, it eliminates having to cook and cool each filling separately before assembling and baking. Except for the leeks and fennel, which are cooked first and set aside while the mushrooms brown, all the ingredients are added in stages according to how long they take to cook. This allows the most delicate ingredient (the asparagus) to be added toward the end so it can retain a tender-crisp texture.

While the active (hands-on) cooking time might be longer than a traditional oven-baked lasagna, owing to the fact that the noodles need to be stirred fairly regularly, the overall cooking time is still far less. Who doesn’t like that?

Stovetop Spring Chicken Lasagna

Danish fontina is easily recognizable by the inedible red wax that covers its rind. It is creamy and mild, compared to the sharper flavor of more expensive Italian versions. 


Asparagus.alert1 medical alerts

4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

2 small leeks, halved lengthwise, white and light green parts thinly sliced

Kosher salt

1/2 fennel bulb, cored, thinly sliced

8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms

8 oz. ground chicken

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. minced garlic

8 oz. no-boil lasagna noodles, broken in half

2 1/4 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 oz. shredded Danish fontina cheese (1/2 cup)

3 Tbs. finely chopped chives

2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

4 oz. asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 Tbs. chopped tarragon 

Cooking Instructions

fennel bulb.alert1 medical alerts

1. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the oil. Add the leeks, fennel and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook until softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Warm the remaining 2 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Return the leeks and fennel to the pan, add the lasagna noodles, chicken broth, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until the noodles are just tender, about 10 minutes, stirring the noodles occasionally to prevent them from sticking together.

4. While the noodles cook, in a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, fontina, 2 Tbs. of the chives and the lemon zest. Set aside.

5. Stir the asparagus and tarragon into the noodle mixture, then dollop the cheese mixture on top. Cover and cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender and the cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the lasagna with the remaining 1 Tbs. chives.

Serves 4 to 6.