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Butternut Squash Lasagna

January 23, 2007

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Because I seem to be on a roll of concocting very messy things in my kitchen, why should tonight be any different? At first glance, Butternut Squash Lasagna doesn’t seem like it should be the messiest project, but you just try grating slightly mushy butternut squash pieces, and then we can talk. Oh, the squash eventually got grated, but so did my fingers.

I realized as I was constructing my lasagna that in all my reading about pasta, and traditional Italian foods, I’d never really come across any information about lasagna. Was it, in fact, an Italian dish, or just another American concoction for the red-checkered tablecloth crowd? I decided to do a little research.

Some think that lasagna pasta was the first kind of pasta ever made, and were originally more like flatbreads than layered pasta casseroles. Flat sheets of pasta were dried, then layered with cheese and baked. My rudimentary research tells me that initially lasagna was mostly cheese and pasta noodles, and that eventually, ragu began to be added. It does seem that any kind of savory ingredient could be layered with cheese and noodles and still be considered a lasagna, so while this has no tomatoes, or meat sauce, or even ricotta, I feel perfectly justified in still referring to it as lasagna.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

(from Eating Well, with minor modifications)

  • about 12 lasagna noodles, or 10 oz–enough for three layers of noodles in your lasagna dish
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 large leek, green top removed, thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • a little more than 1/3 c. flour
  • 2 – 3 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and grated
  • 1 1/2 c. parmesan cheese (I also threw in a bit of Italian Truffle Cheese, which I’m currently completely obsessed with)

I bought pre-cut butternut squash, because I’m not a total glutton for punishment. Unfortunately, the cut up squash was in my refrigerator for about a week–just long enough for it to get nice and slimy. But that was not going to stop me! I just rinsed and dried it, and went right along with my dinner plans. I’m sure grating the squash would have been much easier had it been fresh.

Grated Squash

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook 2 – 3 noodles at a time, until they are still very al dente. You want them to be undercooked. Remove the noodles and put them in a bowl of cool water, while you cook the next batch of 2-3 noodles, and repeat this process until all the noodles are cooked and resting in the bowl of water.

Heat the oil (or butter) in a large skillet. Add the leek and shallot, and cook, stirring, for about five minutes. You want it all to be soft and to release a bit of water. Add the flour, and whisk it all about. This will look unappetizing. You will think you added too much flour. Don’t worry, just stir it around until the leeks and shallots are well coated.

Slowly and incrementally add the milk in, and keep whisking. You can let it sit for a minute or two between additions of milk, until it starts bubbling and getting a bit thick. Then add more milk and whisk some more, and keep going until you have a fair amount of thick, leeky sauce. Add salt, pepper, and thyme (and nutmeg, if you like that kind of thing) to taste, and remove the sauce from the heat.

Now you can start assembly. In a lasagna pan (mine is about 9 x 13 inches), lay down one layer of noodles. Top that with about 1/3 of the sauce, 1/2 of the squash, and 1/3 of the cheese. Add another layer of noodles, another layer of sauce, the rest of the squash, and another layer of cheese. Finally, add the last layer of noodles, the last of the sauce, and the last of the cheese.

Cover this with tin foil. The recipe recommended parchment paper, then foil, but that seemed unnecessarily fussy to me. Stick it in the oven for 50 minutes. Remove the foil, and cook it for another 30-45 minutes, until the cheese on the top is bubbling and brown.

pan o’ hot goodness

You have to let it sit for about 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven. I know this is hard. You’ve been smelling its deliciousness for the last hour and a half. You’re probably quite hungry, and it might be later than you usually eat dinner. But you will likely regret trying to cut into it early, because it won’t be set, and it’ll all fall apart on you. You’ll end up with a plate of noodles, and a pan full of stuff. Just be patient. Go read a book, or smoke a cigarette, or make yourself a nice hot toddy.

Once its cooled and had a chance to rest itself, go right for it and dig in. Enjoy your meal, and ponder for awhile the ancient and storied origins of lasagna.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 23, 2007 10:21 pm

    That looks so good. Where have I been?? I had no idea you could buy pre-cut butternut squash! What a time saver.

    Thanks, btw, for commenting on my blog. I LOVED the Glass Castle. It is definitely one of my favorite books.

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