Sunday, December 20, 2009

Butternut squash lasagna

This recipe for Butternut Squash Lasagna is from Giada on the Food Network. My dad sent me the link to this -- he and my mom loved it. My dad is retired and has some time to watch the Food Network, and he is partial to Giada. Plus, e knew we had all this pumpkin. Lately, I've only been watching that channel at the gym -- it's a little disconcerting to be pedaling away on the elliptical and then see Paula Deen add 2 sticks of butter to a bowl.

I don't think I had ever made lasagna before. Or if I had, it was something really basic like layering jar tomato sauce with lasagna noodles and sprinkling some cheese on it. I cooked this on Monday after work (and after the gym). We thought the daughter of a family friend would be coming through town Tuesday and this would be good to have handy for her and her children for dinner. So I got home from the gym around 7 and started cooking.

Butternut Squash Lasagna (Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 amaretti cookies, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan


Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender*. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

First the substitutions. Can you believe 3 weeks into the Winter CSA and we still haven't gotten any squash? I used 2 cups of the pureed pumpkin from the freezer instead. This would have saved some time, except I needed to thaw it, which I did on the stove instead of in the microwave. Also, I did not use amaretti cookies -- we had leftover Nilla Wafer crumbs from bourbon balls and I used those with 2 capfuls of almond extract instead.

In terms of difficulty, this recipe wasn't that bad. I have a mental block against sauces (it's the whole stir constantly thing; I like to move around when cooking), but it turned out okay. No scorching! It could have been a little thicker, but it was much better than my pudding attempt later in the week.

My problems came with the layering of the ingredients. We had Barilla no-bake lasagna noodless, which are small. I'm not sure if other brands are the same or not, but I always picture lasagna sheets as being long. I put three in the bottom of the dish then added the pumpkin, sprinkled the cheese, and then poured sauce over. I felt like the noodles were too small and wondered if I should overlap more on the bottom but resisted. The recipe says to repeat this 3 times -- I ended up only doing it 3 times total. And then I wasn't sure what to end with at the top -- sauce? cheese? At the last minute (actually, a little past then because it had already been cooking awhile), I added a layer of lasagna noodles and then sprinkled more cheese on top.

It came out to a nice golden brown and, yes, the noodles expanded when cooking so filled up the dish more. I will say that this is not the most visually appealing dish - orange, green, and shades of brown. But it was delicious! The guests came through Wedneday, not Tuesday, and didn't stay for dinner, so R. and I have been eating this on our own through the week (it says it serves 8-10). It heats up nicely in the microwave and holds together well. It's rich without being too heavy.

When I told my mom I made it, I said that we liked it but it took a long time to make. She said she didn't know because dad made it -- well, he's retired, he had all day! I didn't finish until after 9. While it was cooking, I was able to take a shower and then had a bowl of cereal for dinner.

Some of the ingredients

Pumpkin puree

Stir, stir, stir!

Adding basil to the blender

After mixing the basil and some of the cream sauce in the blender

Adding nutmeg to the cream sauce

Pumpkin spread over the noodles - I probably should have had used more pumpkin. It's not like I don't have enough.

Sauce poured over cheese, pumpkin, lasagna noodles - the basil made it a lovely shade of green

Sauce layered over pumpkin & cheese

The finished product - maybe a little too brown on top?

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