Sunday, April 4, 2010

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Saturday, Thomas and I made a big batch of lasagna. He's been watching Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello on the Food Network and asking to make his lasagna of butternut squash for weeks, so after his baseball game and lunch we got to work. I'll include the whole recipe after our pictures and then some notes from us after that.

First we made the spice mix. I packed up so many of our kitchen items for the remodel that I couldn't find the mortar and pestle. We used the coffee/spice grinder instead. After that we peeled, seeded, chopped, seasoned and roasted the squash:

Then we made the bechamel sauce. Thomas was really excited about this, and even though we made a bit of a mess the sauce turned out great!
The flecks you see in the sauce are fresh sage. Next while we boiled the noodles, we pureed the squash and added the rest of the ingredients for the filling. I should have taken pictures of all the dirty dishes at this point - there was quite a stack of them!

We assembled and baked and yum! It turned out really good.

Instead of making one huge 13x9 inch pan full, we split it up into 3 small 8x8s. We baked 1 and froze the other 2 for later this month.

Lasagna of Roasted Butternut Squash

Michael Chiarello


For the squash:

  • 2 large butternut squash, about 3 to 5 pounds
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Fennel and Cinnamon Spice Blend, recipe follows
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese (or a 15-ounce container)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 pound dried lasagna sheets (about 24 sheets), each 6 1/2 by 3 inches
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sage, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

To assemble the lasagna:

  • Butter, for dish
  • 1 pound mozzarella, grated
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the squash's hard shell. Trim about 1/2-inch off the top and bottom ends so you can set each section of the squash flat on a cutting board. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out with a spoon, and coarsely chop the squash into 1/2-inch chunks. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a bowl, toss the squash with the oil, sage, spice blend, and 1 teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper. Spread the squash in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast the squash in the oven until very soft and beginning to brown, 40 to 50 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove the squash from the oven and puree in a food processor with fresh nutmeg.
In a large bowl, mix the squash puree, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cover and refrigerate the mixture until ready to use.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the lasagna sheets until al dente. Drain the sheets and spread them on a baking sheet. Drizzle them lightly with oil and set aside.
Prepare the sauce: In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a slow simmer over medium heat. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the sage and garlic to the butter, cook for 30 seconds, then add the flour and stir. Add about 3 cups of the milk, and whisk vigorously to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil, while whisking continuously. Add the remaining milk and whisk again. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Adjust the heat to low to maintain a slow simmer, and cook until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes, whisking frequently. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Makes about 8 cups.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Spoon a ladle of bechamel into the dish and spread to coat the bottom. Place a single layer of lasagna sheets on top of the bechamel. Spread some of the squash mixture evenly over the lasagna sheets and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese and 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top. Repeat this step until all ingredients are used, starting with 2 to 3 ladles of bechamel for each layer. Keep building the layers until the pan is full to about 1/4-inch from the top. Finish with cheese and sauce directly over the noodles. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour. Remove the cover, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Allow lasagna to rest before slicing. Serve warm.

Fennel and Cinnamon Spice Blend:

  • 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Salt
Grind fennel with mortar and pestle. Add the cinnamon and salt and continue grinding. Or grind in spice grinder for a rough grind.
Our thoughts:
1. Be sure to be generous with both the sauce and the squash mixture as you're building the lasagna. You want a nice thick layer of squash, and not a bowl of leftovers (like we ended up with! It's not a big bowl but I think the first lasagna would have been even better if it had more of the veggie mixture). 
2. We couldn't find the flat rectangular lasagna noodles Michael prefers so we used the regular long ones with the curly edges. I don't think it made a difference in the finished product.
3. This was a good vegetarian main course but it also might make a nice side dish, maybe with grilled pork chops.
4. It was even better the second day heated up for leftovers!
We all really enjoyed it; Thomas asked when we could make it again, so not only was it a delicious dinner but also a good bonding project for us. I love it that he loves to cook. :)

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