When we blog, we post recipes that we make that are yummy. Obviously, we don’t post everything we make, we look for dishes that have something interesting or special about them. This dish is very, very special. After dinner tonight, we both agreed that this twist on the classic lasagna is one of the most delicious things we have made in quite a while.
We got the idea for this dish while browsing through one of our Thanksgiving-themed cookbooks. The author shared a recipe for a pumpkin and sage lasagna that sounded tasty, but was pretty fussy and complicated. It called for frying sage leaves and for thickly slicing a seeded and peeled pumpkin and sauteing it before making the lasagna. With two small children in the house, we don’t really have time for that kind of work.
So we decided to go rogue with the recipe and make it our way. Our way includes a roasted winter squash whose flesh is folded with whole milk ricotta and flavored with dried sage. Things get simplified with no-bake lasagna noodles. It also adds mozzarella cheese to the mix and tops the whole dish with a creamy bechamel sauce that is flavored with bay, thyme, parsley, and black pepper. Once baked, the lasagna is rich and creamy with balanced sweetness from the squash and savory from the cheeses and herbs.
We recommend that you head immediately to your nearest market and purchase one of the many delicious in-season winter squashes currently available and make this dish tonight. I think I might have to go look for leftovers.
Winter Squash Lasagna
2lbs winter squash such as pumpkin or butternut (do not use spaghetti squash), cut in half and seeded
1 lb ricotta cheese
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp kosher salt
3 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
6 whole peppercorns
3 tbls butter
1 large clove of garlic, minced
3 tbls flour
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
Roast the winter squash in a 400 degree until tender, about 50-60 minutes (depending on the type of squash). Remove and let cool. Meanwhile, pour 3 cups of milk in a saucepan. Cut a square of cheesecloth (about 8 inches) and place the bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and parsley inside. Gather up the corners to make a packet and tie tightly with twine. Add the herb packet to the milk and heat over medium heat until gently simmering. Simmer for 2 minutes (do not let it boil), remove from heat, and let the milk steep for 30 minutes.
Once the squash is cool, scoop out the flesh and place it in a large bowl. Mash the squash with a potato masher. Add the ricotta cheese, sage, 1 tsp of salt, and ground pepper to taste. Fold the mixture together and set aside.
To make the bechamel sauce, use a 3-4 quart saucepan and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute until just beginning to brown (about 2 minutes) stirring constantly. Whisk in the flour and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the raw flour taste is cooked out, about another 2 minutes. Remove the herb packet from the milk (discard it). Slowly pour the milk into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Once all the milk has been added, continue to whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with remaining tsp of salt and ground nutmeg.
In a 9×13 casserole, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place three lasagna noodles crosswise on top of the sauce. Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture and 2 ounces of the mozzarella. Place three more noodles in the dish. Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture, 2 ounces of the mozzarella, and 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Repeat the second layer (noodles, the remaining squash, mozzarella). Top with remaining three noodles, the rest of the bechamel sauce, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, and the grated parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes and the top is browned and bubbly.
Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh sage leaves with desired. Serves 8.