Crispy Rice Cake Lasagna


For this creative take on lasagna, chewy, tender Korean rice cakes are coated with a spicy sauce of sweet Italian sausage, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper flakes, gochujang, ssamjang, and kimchi. A caramelized, bubbly, stringy provolone topping helps temper the heat. Find tubular Korean rice cakes, which are sold partially cooked and vacuum-sealed, in the freezer section at Korean markets or online. 

Active Time:
50 mins
Total Time:
50 mins

Baked until bubbling and golden brown, the lasagna at Kimika, a lively restaurant nestled between Little Italy and Chinatown in Manhattan, is full of surprises. It arrives at the table still piping hot from the oven with a jaw-dropping cheese pull. A layer of provolone cheese tempers the heat of what lies beneath: a deliciously piquant tomato sauce made with dashi, kimchi, ssamjang, and gochujang and into which ground pork, coriander, and garlic have been stirred. But the greatest aha! moment comes when your fork spears a tubular Korean rice cake, standing in here for lasagna noodles, bringing a chewy-tender bite to this decadent casserole.

The Crispy Rice Cake Lasagna is the invention of chef Christine Lau, a Chinese American chef born in Oakland, California, and it leans into Kimika's emphasis on Itameshi, the intersection of Italian and Japanese cuisines popular in Japan. A single large baking dish works well to serve a crowd at home, or you can divide the mixture into smaller gratin dishes before baking to make luxurious individual portions.


Sweet Italian Sausage

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1 pound ground pork

  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper

  • 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 tsp.)

  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • ¼ cup red wine


  • ½ cup vegetable oil, divided

  • 1 ¾ cups gochujang

  • 2 pounds Korean rice cakes (tubular shape)

  • 2 cups dashi

  • ¼ cup tomato sauce

  • 1 tablespoon ssamjang

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

  • 2 cups kimchi, drained (liquid reserved) and chopped

  • 4 cups thinly sliced scallions (from 10 large scallions)

  • ½ cup unsalted butter (4 oz.), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)

  • 12 ounces provolone cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)


Make the sweet Italian sausage:

  1. Cook fennel seeds and coriander seeds in a small skillet over medium, stirring often, until seeds are toasted and aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; let stand at room temperature until toasted seeds have cooled completely, 2 to 3 minutes. Grind toasted seeds in a spice grinder until finely ground, 30 to 45 seconds. Stir together ground seeds, ground pork, black pepper, sugar, salt, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Add wine, and stir until well combined.

Make the lasagna:

  1. Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a shallow saucepan over medium-low. Add sweet Italian sausage; cook, stirring constantly using a whisk, until mostly cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. (Using a whisk is a chef's trick to break up chunks of meat as it cooks. The sausage should not get any color or char.) Stir in gochujang; cook, stirring constantly using whisk, until sausage is completely cooked, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer sausage mixture to a large heatproof bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

  2. Heat remaining 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Working in 2 batches if needed, add rice cakes to skillet; cook, flipping occasionally, until cakes are crispy on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer rice cakes to a plate lined with paper towels, reserving oil in skillet.

  3. Preheat oven to broil with rack about 6 inches from heat. Add dashi, tomato sauce, ssamjang, sesame oil, and reserved kimchi liquid to reserved vegetable oil in skillet. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high. Boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add crispy rice cakes and chopped kimchi to mixture, and gently stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in scallions, butter, and Parmesan. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is emulsified, turns a creamy orange color, and coats rice cakes, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

  4. Transfer rice cake mixture to reserved pork mixture in bowl; gently stir until well combined. Transfer mixture to an ungreased 13- x 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish; sprinkle evenly with provolone. Broil in preheated oven until provolone is melted and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

    Crispy Rice Cake Lasagna
    Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Make Ahead

Sweet Italian sausage can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.

Suggested Pairing

Fruit-forward, spicy Zinfandel: Marietta Cellars Román

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