Friday, March 11, 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna


 I love having people over to dinner and I don't want to have to wait for the weekend. This recipe for a delicious , company-quality meal has become a favorite of mine for weeknight entertaining.  The trick is that it can be assembled ahead of time.You can make the Butternut filling a couple of days ahead and put the lasagna together that morning or even late the night before and then just pop it into the oven an hour before guests arrive.
Butternut squash lasagna has an excellent flavor. It is not overly squash-like but has a rich, nutty and slightly sweet taste that can be a main dish served along side some roasted aspargus or brussel sprouts, steamed broccoli or a nice green salad. It is also a hearty side dish.
Another plus is that it is a vegetarian recipe that is rich and flavorful enough for the omnivores in the group. It can be easily adapted to a vegan meal  as well which would also be good for those who are lactose intolerant. So it is really versatile for guests with differing food needs.
I have found that people often shy away from cooking with butternut sqaush because they are not sure how to peel or cook it. There are several ways to do this. I recommend some in the recipe. If the butternut is small, you can use a large knife and cut it in half. If it is larger, try cutting it into quarters. I usually have to get the knife started then gently tap my way through. Using this method, you would simply remove the seeds and place in the roasting pan as directed. But with most squash, it is also  easy to peel and then chop the squash into pieces to bake or boil. Once you get the hang of it, you'll find it is pretty easy to prepare a butternut puree which can be used in soups, pasta, and risotto.
Let me know what you think of it.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
3 cups or so butternut puree from 2 small or 1 large squash*
8 oz ricotta cheese,
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 1 tsp garlic powder, ½  tsp onion powder, salt and pepper

¼ cup butter                             
¼ cup flour
½ cup half and half
2-2 ½ cups milk ( may need a bit more)- or use all milk, about 2 ½ -3 cups( not skim!)
1 tsp Italian seasoning, ¼  tsp freshly grated nutmeg, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, pinch of cinnamon
Salt & pepper
1 cup swiss cheese, shredded
1 cup mozzarella or Italian blend cheese, shredded( may skip or use less)
¼ cup parmesan cheese
9-12 no-boil lasagna noodles( You may use boiled lasagna noodles, but use less milk)
Butter for pan

*You may wash and cut squash in half or quarters, remove seeds and place cut side down in baking pan (foiled lined makes clean up easier) that is brushed with olive oil and/or has a couple TBSPN water in the pan. Roast on 350 for about 45-50 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and carefully turn squash pieces over to cool.
Another method is to peel,cut into large chunks and roast for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice .  
Whichever method you use, cool the cooked squash and then puree it in food processor.
This may be done ahead of time and refrigerated  or even frozen.
Once butternut is prepared and pureed, mix in 8 oz ricotta cheese and seasonings. Set aside while preparing sauce.
In a large skillet or sauce pan, heat ¼ cup butter and when melted add ¼  cup flour and whisk or stir for a minute or two until texture is sandy and begins to get a little golden. Slowly whisk in ½ cup half and half, if using, and 2 – 2 ½ cups milk and bring almost to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium -low and simmer for about 5 minutes allowing sauce to thicken. If too thick, add a bit of milk or ½ and ½ . While it cooks, add Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, salt & pepper to taste. Remove from heat and fold in 2/3 cup Swiss cheese, 2/3 cup mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Lightly Butter 9x13 baking dish and scoop a bit of sauce in the bottom. Layer three- three & a half noodles across pan. Spread a layer of butternut mixture (about 1/3 of the mixture) and drizzle with a bit of sauce. Repeat this until dish is full or you are out of butternut squash. Top with remaining sauce, making sure edges are covered.  Cover with foil. I usually make this a few hours ahead to let it sit and soak up the flavors.
Preheat oven to 375 and bake covered for about 40 minutes. When it is hot and bubbly, remove foil and sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup of Swiss and 1/3 cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered 15 minutes. Remove and let it rest at least 5 minutes.
Note: If you prefer not to use a milk-based sauce, use a nice marinara. I like to whip one up using fire roasted tomatoes and onions. Instead of adding cheese to sauce, add it to Butternut mixture or sprinkle it on each layer. You could omit shredded cheese or even add more Butternut and omit ricotta and all dairy products!
Denise Birdsall March 2011All rights reserved

5 comments:

  1. I love butternut squash, but have never had it this way before. I can't wait to try it. Thanks for the recipe.

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  2. You are very welcome. We really love this. It is flavorful and rich. I hope you like it!

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  3. I haven't had this in so long. Your recipe sounds delicious! I definitely have to try it.

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  4. I LOVE butternut squash lasagna! Have you seen the recipe by Giada? She adds a little nutmeg and crushed amaretto cookies to part of the white sauce and sage to the other half. Amazing!

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  5. There are lots of ways to vary this recipe and I like just about anything with butternut so I will have to try them. I have seen it with sage, basil, or spinach. I really like the simple bit of herb with a pinch of red pepper and cinnamon but I think it could be a fun thing to try it "dressed up" a bit :-)

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