Ingredient Focus: Butternut Squash

butternut.squash.lasagna

 

We’re deep into fall and winter is coming, and what’s more seasonal than winter squash?  Butternut squash is one of the most popular of winter squashes because of its sweet richness and because it’s also incredibly healthy, as it’s high in vitamins A, C and E and is a rich source of anti-inflammatory nutrients like beta-carotene and omega 3s. Squash has been enjoyed by the indigenous people of North America for thousands of years, but the butternut squash as we know it today was developed over time to produce a fruit with lots of luscious flesh and fewer seeds, which are relegated to the bulb on the far end of the squash.

As popular as it is, many of us haven’t enjoyed it outside of a pureed a soup. So how about trying it in a lasagna?  I adapted this recipe from the New York Times’ Cooking section but modified it by slicing the butternut squash thin instead of pureeing it, and seasoning it with marjoram and cumin to add more sweet earthiness and warmth. I also mixed ricotta and cottage cheese to cut calories and fat, but feel free to change the proportions to your liking.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna (Yields about 10 servings)

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash, cut in ¼” thick slices, about 3-4” in length
5 tablespoons olive oil
1T marjoram
1T cumin
1 tsp pepper
2 large red onions, sliced thin
8 oz. ricotta cheese
8 oz. cottage cheese
2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 ½ cups whole milk
1 tsp grated nutmeg
16 oz. chopped frozen spinach – defrosted, liquid squeezed out
About 12 sheets of no-boil lasagna noodles
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil, or split batch to use 1.
  2. Peel the butternut squash, remove seeds, and slice into thin ¼”x 3” slices. Drizzle slices with 2T of olive oil, and season with 1T marjoram and 1T cumin.
  3. Roast the butternut squash slices for 15-20 minutes. When squash slices are cooked, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Caramelize the red onions by heating 3 tablespoons of olive oil in sauté pan on medium heat. Add onions and cook until onions are softened and brown, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Prepare a ricotta and cottage cheese mixture. Mix ricotta and cottage cheese, rosemary, eggs, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  6. For the spinach sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and add flour. Stir until the raw flour taste is cooked out, 1-2 minutes. Add milk and stir until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat, and add 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan, grated nutmeg, and spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F.
  8. Butter a 9” x 13” glass dish or spray with cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of the spinach sauce on the bottom of the dish. Cover with a layer of lasagna sheets (Before placing the sheets down, you can dip each sheet in hot water to ensure the sheets are adequately moistened and thoroughly cooked while baking). Break a sheet to fit into the extra spaces. Layer the roasted butternut squash slices on top of the pasta sheets. Place another layer of pasta sheets on top. Spread ricotta cheese mixture on top of pasta sheets. Next, spread the caramelized onion on top. Cover with an additional layer of pasta sheets. Layer butternut squash slices again and then another layer of pasta. Spread rest of the spinach sauce as the last layer.
  9. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for additional 10 minutes.
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