This morning, when Jeff questioned me about what I wanted to make for dinner, nothing appealed to me. Did I want to cook the roast that we have in the freezer? No. Did I want chili? Nah. Chicken? Blah. Then, it dawned on me that I was feeling crummy because I had eaten out three nights in a row; instantly, I knew what I wanted. "Vegetables!," I cried out. "My body's saying it wants vegetables!" And right then, I knew it was time to make my butternut squash lasagna.
I'd never made my butternut squash lasagna until today, but I've been creating the recipe in my head for quite some time. Today was the perfect day to make it, too; Jeff was going to be out for the afternoon and I hadn't made any plans, it was snowing again so a heavier dish was in order, and, as I mentioned before, I had eaten out so much that I was happy to spend a couple of hours cooking. It was simply meant to be.
I roasted my butternut squash, gently mashed it, then mixed it with some spinach. Inspired by my zucchini boat recipe, I folded the vegetables into a mixture of ricotta and Parmesan cheese.
I wanted to add complementary flavours to my bechamel sauce, but I didn't want to overwhelm my star ingredient, the squash; therefore, I decided on an infusion: I added full sprigs of fresh rosemary and some smashed cloves of garlic to the simmering milk, straining the sauce before using it in the lasagna.
Having finished the filling and the sauce, I was ready to layer them with fresh pasta sheets.
Finally, I topped the lasagna with a layer of fresh mozarella, set it into the oven to bake, and proceeded to wash what seemed like every single dish I own. Oh well, at least it's a good way to pass the time when you're looking forward to your meal (three cheers for thinking positively! Hip hip hooray!).
This lasagna was everything I imagined it would be. I loved the sweet taste of the squash, the creaminess of the ricotta, the saltiness of the parmesan, and the subtle taste of garlic and rosemary in the smooth, nutty bechamel. The fresh and tasty mozarella was the perfect topping, stretching into long ribbons with every forkful of pasta.
By the time dinner was ready, Jeff was home and glued to my side, sticking his nose two inches away from the fragrant dish as I began slicing. I set a big square on each of our plates, adding a giant pile of lightly dressed greens alongside. As we sat down to eat our homemade meal, I could feel my body thanking me profusely for such delicious vegetables.
Butternut Squash Lasagna with a Garlic and Rosemary Bechamel Sauce: The recipe
Amanda's notes: When it comes to lasagna, I'm more interested in the filling than the pasta, which is why I have a small number of layers. If you want to use more layers of pasta, scale up the amounts of the filling a bit, and make as many thinner layers of filling between pasta as you like. Or, use the recipe as written but make the lasagna in a smaller pan.
This dish is time consuming, but not at all difficult. Try it this weekend!
1.5 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 container ricotta cheee
1 cup Parmesan cheese
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400F. Toss squash with olive oil and salt and pepper, roast on a cookie sheet for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, mix parmesan and ricotta cheee. Allow roasted squash to cool slightly, then mash lightly, mix with spinach, and fold into the ricotta and parmesan cheese mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
Ingredients: Garlic and Rosemary Bechamel Sauce
Basic bechamel sauce adapted from Iron Chef Mario Batali
5 tbsp butter
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
4 sprigs rosemary
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, whisk until completely smooth. Cook mixture, whisking constantly until golden, about 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile, add milk, garlic, and rosemary to a saucepan and heat to just below the boil. Add the heated milk mixture to the butter and flour mixture gradually, a cup at a time, whisking constantly to keep smooth. Bring the milk to a gentle boil, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes.
Remove sauce from heat. Strain into another saucepan. Add nutmeg, and salt to taste.
1 pkg oven ready fresh pasta sheets (such as Olivieri)
fresh mozarella, sliced or grated
Preheat oven to 350F. Spread 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 in baking dish. Add a layer of noodles, cutting the sheets to cover the surface, overlapping slightly. Spread half of the filling into an even layer on the noodles. Pour 1 cup of sauce over the filling, spreading evenly. Top with another layer of noodles. Press with your hands to tighten the layers. Repeat layering, ending with a 3rd layer of noodles. Poor remaining sauce over top layer, top with mozzarella, cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil, bake 5 minutes more. Broil cheese for 5 minutes.
Remove lasagna from oven, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.