Let’s talk for a minute about Italian food.
Italian is the one regional cuisine that “everybody likes”. Because who doesn’t like mountains of pasta, scoops of gelato, fresh mozzarella and homemade tomato sauce? Everyone likes it. Except for me.
*I would like to note here that I have never been to Italy, and I presume that I would be obsessed with Italian food the moment I said “Buon giorno“. But what I talk about here is the American version of Italian I have been brought up with.
Being gluten free is a big reason for me to reach over and turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction from flags waving red, green, and white, but there is so much more. For instance, I never really liked pasta in the first place. In general it just takes the shape of whatever sauce is put on it. And when that is often an overbearing tomato, which scorches down your throat screaming “I’m a tomato and don’t you forget it!”, or a sauce so creamy you feel like you just drank a gallon of whole milk in one sitting, its just a turn off. Even when I have the most amazing sauce that ever topped a mountain of pasta (pesto, anyone?!) I would much rather eat it out of a bowl with a spoon.
Another reason I would choose Thai, Indian, or even good old bar food over Italian is I think it all tastes the same. Something breaded with tomato sauce and cheese. Something rolled with parma ham and topped with cheese and sauce. Pasta with sauce. Lemon, cream, or tomato. I can see the appeal initially (the “cheese” gets me every time) but in all honesty, I enjoy variety of flavor so much that I don’t often think to head to the nearest Italian eatery. Just don’t tell anyone who lives in the North End.
However, I do think Italians have some good ideas. Lasagna being one of them. Layering protein, carbs, and vegetables creates complete meal in just once slice, and I’m not one to mind a good bechamel sauce. But how to I combat the pasta and that stereotypical meat and tomato flavor that steers me away in the first place? When I saw this recipe for Enchilada Lasagna from How Sweet It Is, I knew I had found the answer. A Mexican inspired “lasagna” it had all the right ideas with a brand new flavor. Plus, lack of butter and heavy cream made this healthier for both my eyes and my stomach.
Enchilada Lasagna (adapted from How Sweet It Is)
8 corn tortillas
3 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (about 10 oz)
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 cup black beans
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 10-oz can enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375.
Heat skillet on medium heat and add onions and peppers. Saute until soft. Add chicken, cumin and cayenne, 1/2 the can of enchilada sauce, the black beans and 1/2 cup of cheese. Stir until warm and combined.
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and layer 2 tortillas down. Top with filling, and repeat until tortillas are gone. Top with remaining cup of cheese and drizzle the rest of the enchilada sauce on top.
Bake for 20 minutes.
The perfect combination of two of my favorite things: layered dishes and Mexican food. Oh, and don’t forget the cheese.