Monday, September 28, 2015

Roasted Winter Squash Lasagna

With fall upon us, the cooler temperatures have me craving hearty, comfort food. This lasagna recipe fills the bill and is also very versatile... enjoy the full flavors and rich goodness of pasta, Italian sausage, veggies and cheese. Substitute kale for the spinach or omit it all together for a kid friendly version. For an even more kid friendly version; puree the roasted squash... or change it up to be vegetarian by omitting the sausage. Try any version as a lovely side dish for Thanksgiving Dinner or your next pot luck gathering.

Before you start though, a tip about 'no-boil' noodles. 'No-Boil' pasta is partially cooked then dried before packaging. Recipes that use no-boil noodles have a more liquid sauce and are cooked tightly covered to help the noodles soften while cooking. If you only have the traditional lasagna noodles; cook them, then make a thicker sauce because they won't absorb as much of the sauce as the no-boil noodles.

Garlic and fresh sage complement the fall flavors in this hearty dish.

For the vegetables:
1 x 3 lb. kabocha type (or butternut) squash...
    -peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" dice (about 8-9 cups)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sausage:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 x 500g. pkg. Sweet Italian sausage -remove casings
1 medium yellow onion -small dice
1 x 300g. pkg. frozen spinach...
    -thaw, squeeze out excess liquid, and chop

For the bechamel:
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. finely minced fresh garlic 
10 sage leaves -sliced very thin
1/4 cup all purpose or unbleached flour
4 cups whole milk  
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg -optional

For the lasagna:
Butter for the baking dish
1 cup grated extra old white cheddar (about 4 oz.)
1-1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 oz.)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 oz.) 
12 no-boil lasagna noodles

To roast the squash; preheat oven to 425 F and oil a large bake sheet with a drizzle of olive oil, set aside. In a large bowl, toss the diced squash with olive oil until well coated. Season with salt and pepper and spread in one layer on prepared bake sheet. Roast squash in oven 10 minutes. Stir and roast another 10-15 minutes or until tender and beginning to turn golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

While the squash is roasting; heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet. Crumble the sausage meat into the pan, brown and break it up into small bits with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Add the onion and cook until soft then add the chopped spinach and mix well. Remove from heat and set aside.

While the sausage cooks make the bechamel; melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sage. Cook for about one minute but do not brown the garlic. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook for another minute. Slowly whisk in milk. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg if using and bring to a boil. Whisk often to prevent lumps. Reduce the heat, continue to whisk often and allow to simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.  

Position a rack in the center of the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 F. Lightly butter a 13"x9"x2" glass baking dish. Toss the cheeses in a bowl, set aside 1/2 cup for topping. 

Assembly; evenly coat the bottom of the baking dish with 3/4 cup of the bechamel. Lay 3 lasagna noodles side by side on top. Cover with 1/3 of the squash then 1/3 of the sausage and sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese mix. Drizzle 3/4 cup of sauce over the layers then repeat layering 3 more times using 3 noodles, squash, sausage, cheese and sauce. Be sure to get the ingredients evenly distributed and to the sides of the dish. Top with remaining 3 noodles and cover with the remaining bechamel.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup cheese and continue baking uncovered 15 minutes longer until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden. If needed, place under the broiler until browned, about 2 minutes. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Serve with a green salad along side.

Till next week ... Bon App├ętit!

Photo by Sally Rae     

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