This weekly nod and thank you is getting nearly as fun as the Project Food Buzz competition itself. I can’t believe I am still in this thing!
So to thank you, I decided to bring out something seasonal and warm. I hope it feels just like a big ole hug. I really do! A Butternut Squash Lasagna hug.
I have so many of you to hug too that it just makes sense that I bring out a recipe with nearly as many ingredients as there are hugees. It’s easier than forming a line at my front door. And twice as tasty.
Stiil, I know long lists of ingredients intimidate some people. Especially the kind of recipes that also have a lot of steps. But come on, that is just the nature of good lasagna. It wouldn’t feel like a big ole hug otherwise. Just be grateful I did not decide to do a Bolognese lasagna. We’d be hugging until a week from Tuesday. That baby takes some time.
Though it’s true, even in a vegetarian version like this lasagna, that there really are a lot of steps. But I am here to convince you that each and every one of them is necessary. I mean if this were a real hug, you wouldn’t want me to leave out the squeeze… or the sigh, would you? How about that gratful look into your eyes? I don’t think so.
So trust me when I implore you not to take any shortcuts. Really good lasagna is warm and comforting. It gets there through a series of very important steps. Just like that really good hug I keep mentioning. Because the squash in this recipe is sautéed just until caramelization begins. I know you know why this step in necessary, and I know you’d hate to skip it. But just in case, I’ll say this. Browning and coloring foods that are high in sugar deepens their sweetness. It keeps these foods from being either one note or cloyingly too sweet.
But there’s more. The sage in this recipe is fried before it’s crumbled. This brings two important features. Fried sage is perhaps one of the greatest tricks I know that elevates certain savory dishes– especially those with a lot a sweet, rich caramel. That’s because the aromatic qualities are amplified, and the nuances in its earthy characteristics are able to really develop. Besides that, the sage infused oil you fried those herbs in becomes a very important ingredient in this dish all on its own. Certainly better than canola oil straight from the bottle.
This lasagna also has layers of two types of ‘sauce’. One is an herbed ricotta– which of course I knew you would like. The other is a simplified béchamel studded with onions and garlic. Each plays its role in the construction of this lasagna, and I think each is equally important. So, yep… you need both steps.
The final preparation is similar to most any lasagna that has passed through your kitchen, so I don’t have to try and convince you how important that is.
So warm up that oven. I know you have a great big seasonal hug of your own in store for someone you love.
Adapted from Diane Morgan
- 1 bay leaf
- 1⁄4 t black peppercorns
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley
- 3 c milk
- kosher salt as needed
- 1 lb dried lasagna noodles (about 20 pieces)
- 1⁄2 c canola oil
- 1⁄2 c fresh sage leaves
- 2 lb butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
- 1⁄4 t cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- ground pepper (to taste)
- 1 lb ricotta cheese
- 1⁄2 c fresh paesley, leaves only, minced
- 3 T unsalted butter
- 1 clv garlic, peeled & minced
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 3 T all-purpose flour
- 1⁄4 t nutmeg, grated
- vegetable oil cooking spray
- 1 c parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Cut an 8-inch square of cheese cloth and place the bay leaf, pepper corns, thyme sprigs, and parsley sprigs in the center. Bring up the ends and tie securely into a pouch. In a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat, combine the milk and the herb and pepper filled pouch. Heat until hot, but not boiling. Simmer 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and let steep, covered.
Bring a large stock pot filled with water to a boil, stir in a few tablespoons salt. Add the lasagna noodles and cook about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse well. Set aside laying flat on a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet.
In a small heavy-bottomed saute pan, heat the canola oil until a thermometer reads 365 degrees F. It should be hot but not smoking. Working quickly and in small batches fry the sage leaves about 10 seconds and transfer them to a paper towel lined tray to drain. Sprinkle with salt. Save the oil.
In a medium-sized saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the reserved sage infused oil over medium heat. Working in batches cook the squash slices in a single layer until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Continue until all the slices are cooked adding more oil as needed. Transfer them to a paper towel lined tray to drain. Sprinkle the cooked squash with salt, cayenne and ground pepper. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta and minced parsley. Set aside.
Make the white sauce: In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Swirl to coat the pan, add the garlic and onion. Cook stirring often, until just beginning to color. Add the flour, stirring constantly, until the mixture is blended and cooked through. About 1 minute. Remove the herb and pepper pouch from the reserved milk and slowly whisk the milk into the flour mixture. Bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking all the while. Keep whisking until the sauce is thickened somewhat. Add salt and nutmeg to season. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Lay 3 strips of lasagna noodles along the bottom lengthwise. Add half the white sauce and spread evenly. Place 3 more strips of lasagna noodles on top, then layer on 1/2 of the squash slices. Crumble the fried sage on top of the squash. Place 3 more noodles on top. Spread a layer of all the ricotta evenly on top this layer of noodles. Add another layer with the remaining squash and crumbled sage. Then top all that with 3 more noodles, and the remaining white sauce. For the final layer. Lay 4 noodles across the lasagna lengthwise, overlapping each other slightly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake the lasagna until bubbly and nicely browned, about 1 hour. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting. Serve hot.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD