What Is It
In a word, pumpkin and butternut squash lasagna is winter’s “comfort-food.” Ok, maybe that’s two words, but you get the idea.
Even in California, October has a way of letting you know the seasons are changing. Our trees may not show-off like their Eastern cousins and our rooftops may not sport an early-season snow, but we know it’s fall. Temperatures drop 50 degrees F, and our lawns turn to rust. Take a look at any local restaurant menu and you’ll see the seasonal changes. Gone are the light summer salads and fruity drink recipes. The best restaurants usher in seasonal favorites using fresh ingredients like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and snow peas. Pumpkin and butternut squash grows plentifully this time of year.
Here’s a great make-ahead recipe for a vegetarian lasagna that oozes warmth and comfort, and makes your kitchen just smell like winter.
Full disclosure: While I’ve made many versions of this before, this recipe was inspired by Rachel Ray. I’ve borrowed from it, then tweaked and tuned it to make it my own.
There’s lots of moving parts to this recipe, so clear off your kitchen island and gather your mise en place (a fancy way of saying, “get your stuff together.”
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large bunch spinach, cleaned and stems removed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roasted or soft-boiled
6 tablespoons butter
1 bunch fresh sage leaves, rolled and torn
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups canned chicken stock
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk (2 cups half-and-half)
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon dried ground ginger
Two 15-ounce cans pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 large eggs
1 cups fresh ricotta
8 ounces mozzarella, shredded
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 box no-boil flat lasagna
12 ounces provolone cheese, thin-sliced
How To Make It
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Soak the lasagna sheets in water for 5 minutes.
Bring one quart of water to a boil in a large pot and add a healthy pinch of salt. Cook the spinach for 3 minutes and drain.
In a small bowl, smash the roasted garlic with a fork.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Roll the sage in your palm to lightly bruise it and release the aroma. Tear it into bits and add to melted butter and stir. Add the squash and season with salt and pepper. Add vegetable stock and simmer for 15 minutes. It’s ready when all the stock is absorbed and the squash is tender. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Soften 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk briskly for 1 minute. Stir in the milk (or half-and-half) and smashed garlic. nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Cook until slightly thickened.
Combine the pumpkin puree, 2 eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the ricotta, mozzarella, 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and 1 egg.
Pour half the garlic sauce into the bottom of a 9 by 11-inch baking dish. Add a layer of lasagna sheets and then half the pumpkin mixture on top of the lasagna sheets.
Make another layer of lasagna sheets and spread with all of the ricotta and mozzarella mixture, followed by the squash and then spinach. Top with half of the thinly sliced provolone.
Now, lay down another layer of lasagna sheets and top with the remaining pumpkin mixture. Place another layer of lasagna sheets and finish it by topping with the remaining garlic sauce and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano and finally, the remaining layer of provolone.
Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees F, uncover the lasagna and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let it rest so it can firm up.
Swaps: If your family turns a nose to spinach, try arugula instead. For the cheese, you can leave out the mozzarella altogether by doubling the ricotta.
Note: The recipe calls for a generous amount of butter and cheese. Keep in mind that it makes 8-10 servings, when done. You can always use less butter than the recipe calls for, but if you cut back on the cheese, it might turn out dry and deflated.
Editor’s Note: photo courtesy rikomatic – Creative Commons.