With the leaves turning and a nip in the air, I was craving a one-dish meal that would bring fall to the table. I am not a lasagna baker but I enjoy other people’s family recipes. After reading several recipes for seasonal butternut squash lasagna, I was motivated to try my hand at one. My version is loosely based on the recipe by Pippa Middleton, she of the famous sister and derrière, from her cookbook, Celebrate. Although a vegetarian dish, it is hearty and robust enough in flavor to satisfy most guests’ appetite. You could substitute other types of squash or pumpkin but butternut is my favorite squash. The combination of squash, kale, caramelized onion, sage and Italian cheeses enveloped in creamy layers of béchamel sauce result in rustic flavors, perfect for fall entertaining. The lasagna can be made a couple of days in advance or even frozen, before baking, for up to 3 months, making it a no brainer for stress free entertaining.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND KALE LASAGNA
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 and 1/2 pound butternut squash
salt and freshly ground pepper
24 fresh sage leaves; Reserve half and chop the rest finely
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 pound of frozen chopped kale
5 sheets of fresh lasagna noodles
8 ounces of grated Quattro Fromaggio Italian cheese medley
Béchamel: 4 T unsalted butter, 4 T flour, 16oz light cream, 1/2 t ground nutmeg, 3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese plus 2/3 c more for sprinkling between layers
Method: Preheat oven to 400F
1- Cut the squash in half and reserve the seeds. Coat the cut surfaces with a little oil, salt and pepper and place on an oiled and lined baking sheet, face side down. Roast for 15 minutes on the bottom rack. Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle. Peel the squash and slice in crescents about a quarter inch thick. Return to baking sheet, add the onions, garlic, and half of the chopped sage leaves. Bake another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so the onion does not burn and caramelizes evenly. Reserve.
2- In a sauté pan, sauté the kale in a bit of olive oil until the moisture is absorbed then season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.
3- For the béchamel, in a saucepan, melt butter, add flour and stir to make a roux. Gradually add the cream, whisking continuously until a smooth consistency is achieved and sauce is thickened. Add the nutmeg and 3/4 cup of parmesan and whisk to blend. Reserve.
4- In a pot of boiling water, blanch each sheet of lasagna, remove and dry off.
You will have 3 layers of pasta. In a lasagna pan, place 1 sheet of lasagna and about half of another to fill the width of your dish. Top with a layer, about half, of the squash mixture. On top of the squash, layer one third of the béchamel sauce, then half of the kale. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of parmesan. Repeat. Finish by laying another layer of lasagna noodles and topping this layer with the rest of the béchamel and all of the shredded cheese blend.
Reduce oven temperature to 375F and bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes until bubbly and golden. If baking from a frozen state, defrost before baking.
In a pan, heat some olive oil and flash-fry the whole sage leaves, for about 1 minute. Drain on a paper towel and reserve. Squash seeds are really tasty roasted and a nice topping for this dish. To roast the seeds, clean off membranes and toss in a little olive oil. Bake on a foil lined sheet at 400F for 3-5 minutes, stirring once, until they are golden. Drain on a paper towel and season with sea salt.
When ready to serve, garnish with the fried sage and toasted squash seeds and a green salad. Lasagna will serve 8.
Toasting the squash seeds: