Whenever I have extra tortillas sitting around after a night of mango-salsified and pink chipotle-sauced fish tacos, I typically insist on using them as is (pretending not to notice that they’re stale and ripping when I fold them for a taco or burrito), or during slightly more logical moments, I chop them into wedges, toss with olive oil, salt and cumin, and bake them into chips. This time, I pretended they were lasagna noodles.
Some might define insanity as repeating the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. But I bet a few of you are reading this and thinking that indulging my admitted illusion that tortillas can work as noodles is just another type of crazy. And you would probably be right.
But I love an excuse to make Mexican food, and the miniature stack of leftover tortillas provided me with exactly that. The Cinco de Mayo gods and goddesses must have been looking out because out of this moment of madness came a casserole dish reminiscent of lasagna – except with decidedly complex, Mexican flavors – that I will happily turn to again and again, expecting the same incredibly scrumptious result without fearing for my sanity.
Because all the components can be prepared a few days in advance (and in higher quantities, for use in other dishes throughout the week – especially the beans, sauce and kale) and just layered up and tossed in the oven for 30 minutes, this tortilla lasagna is great for a weeknight or a dinner party. Have vegetarian or vegan friends? Nix the chorizo and queso fresco – you’ll barely miss them thanks to the flavorful, spicy sauce, hearty beans, and satisfying corn tortillas.
Seeing as I intend to add this to my regular weeknight rotation, it’s a good thing this layered dish happens to be quite healthy. From the tomato-chile sauce made entirely of veggies without any added fat and the protein-rich beans, to the fiber- and antioxidant-heavy kale and naturally lower fat queso fresco, the only unhealthy component is the single link of chorizo (and even then, it’s a very small quantity, and you can substitute turkey chorizo or remove it altogether).
But for Cinco de Mayo, even if you choose to skimp on the chorizo, do your mid-week mental health a favor, and don’t forget the cocktails!
Mexican Tortilla Lasagna with Chorizo, Kale and Beans
I usually prepare the Tomato-Chile Sauce and the cook the beans a few days in advance, and plan another meal or two that will effectively use up any sauce and bean leftovers (e.g., mix with scrambled eggs or pasta, or prepare a Mexican-flavor version of Fried Rice). In a pinch, canned beans can be substituted for dried, cooked ones (and you can use all black beans, all rio zape, or all pinto, if that’s what you have on hand), but keep in mind that dried beans are both cheaper and more flavorful (and require minimal effort to cook – let them simmer next time you’re doing laundry!).
To make this vegan: omit the chorizo (or use soy chorizo from Trader Joe’s or elsewhere) and the queso fresco, and saute the kale in 1 Tbsp. olive oil.
1/4 lb. chorizo, casings removed
1/2 kale bunch, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
1/2 c. water
3 6-inch day-old corn tortillas (or fresh ones left out overnight to stale) – see NOTE below
1/2 c. black beans, cooked and drained
1/2 c. rio zape beans, cooked and drained (may substitute pinto beans)
1 1/2 to 2 c. Quick, One-Pot Tomato-Chile Sauce
4 oz. queso fresco, chopped (can substitute cotija, jack cheese, mild cheddar, or a combination of these)
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped, for garnish
1/2 c. red onion, chopped, for garnish
sour cream or Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage) for dolloping
Preheat oven to 400F. Oil or butter a 1.5-quart (or 1.4-liter) round casserole dish (or other similar-capacity oven-safe dish – NOTE: you may want to use extra tortillas if using a larger dish, but the rest of the ingredient amounts should be fine).
In a medium skillet over medium heat, brown chorizo, breaking into chunks with a fork as it cooks. Remove sausage, and set aside. Add kale to the pan, and toss to coat in the chorizo grease that stayed behind. Add 1/2 c. water, stir, and steam until wilted, about 7 minutes. Remove kale from pan, and set aside.
Spread 1/3 c. tomato-chile sauce to cover the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Layer a tortilla (rip them into pieces to fit the dish shape/size you’re using) on top of the sauce. Sprinkle 1/3 of the kale and chorizo over the tortilla, then spread 1/3 c. beans (black and rio zape) over the kale and chorizo. Repeat sauce-tortilla-kale-chorizo-beans layering one more time, then sprinkle half of the queso fresco, and repeat layering one more time (reserve other half of queso fresco). Pour 1/2 c. tomato-chile sauce over the top of the casserole to cover, using remaining 1/2 c. if necessary to cover (will depend on the size of the casserole dish used). NOTE: if using cheddar and/or jack cheese, sprinkle over top of casserole.
Cover casserole dish, and bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, and sprinkle with remaining queso freso. Cut into fourths, spoon onto plates, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and red onion, and serve hot!
Do ahead: Kale, chorizo, beans, and sauce can all be prepped and cooked up to 3 days in advance. Once baked, lasagna stored in airtight container can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and reheated, or frozen for up to 2 months.