Butternut Squash Lasagna


Of all the recipes I’ve made this year, this is one of my favorites. The creaminess of the butternut squash in this dish makes it extra special. Each lasagna layer is flavorful and well-seasoned. When you taste them all together, they blend like a well-tuned symphony! Butternut Squash Lasagna is the food highlight of my fall and I hope you will like it as much as I do! Enjoy, friends!

Butternut Squash Lasagna

2 ¼ pounds cubed butternut squash (I purchased pre-cut and peeled)
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 stems fresh rosemary 4-inches long, leaves left on stem
16 sprigs thyme 4-inches long, divided
3 ½ cups whole milk
¼  teaspoon nutmeg
1 small yellow onion, cut in quarters
10 sage leaves
2 cloves garlic, smashed and paper skin removed
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ pounds mild Italian sausage (buy bulk or remove casings from links and crumble into small pieces)
12 lasagna noodles
1 bunch rainbow chard, stems removed and torn in 3-inch pieces, washed, and dried in a salad spinner
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 ½ cups shredded parmesan cheese (not the powder)
Garnish: chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss butternut squash with oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, 3 stems rosemary, and 8 sprigs thyme. Bake on a non-stick sprayed sheet pan, 20 to 30 minutes or until squash is tender. 

While squash is baking, make béchamel. Pour milk into a stockpot. Add nutmeg, onion, sage, garlic, and 8 sprigs of thyme to milk. Turn heat to medium. As soon as milk begins to steam; turn heat to low and steam 20 minutes, being careful not to scorch milk. Pour milk through a mesh strainer to remove onion, garlic and herbs. In a clean stockpot, melt ¼ cup butter over medium high heat. Add flour and stir constantly with a wire whisk to make a roux. Cook and whisk roux 3 minutes. Pour in 3 cups steamed milk (discard any extra milk) and whisk constantly. Scrape bottom and corners of pot with a silicone spatula. Whisk again. Keep whisking until béchamel thickens. Set béchamel aside.

While squash is baking, cook Italian sausage, breaking any large clumps into small pieces.

While squash is baking, cook lasagna noodles. Remove noodles from pot, drain, and lay on paper towels (to prevent noodles from sticking to each other. This works really well and the noodles don’t dry out while you are preparing the layers). 

When squash is cooked, make butternut squash puree. Remove squash from oven and reduce heat to 375ºF. Remove rosemary and thyme sprigs. Pour squash into a food processor or blender. Add 2 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Process until smooth. Gradually add béchamel. Process until smooth. Set aside.

To layer lasagna: Spray a 9  X 13-inch glass or ceramic dish with non-stick spray. Pour a small amount of squash puree onto bottom of pan. In this order, top with 3 lasagna noodles, 1/3 sausage, 1/4 mozzarella cheese, 1/4  parmesan cheese, 1/3 rainbow chard and 1/4 squash puree. Repeat to make 3 layers. Top with remaining 3 lasagna noodles and 1/4 squash puree.  Spread puree to cover entire top of noodles then sprinkle remaining 1/4 mozzarella cheese and 1/4 parmesan cheese on top.  

Cover lasagna with foil and bake at 375ºF for 30-35 minutes or until hot in the middle. Remove from oven. Turn oven on broil and move top oven rack up. Remove foil and broil 3 minutes or until top is golden brown. Garnish with parsley. Makes one 9 X 13-inch lasagna. Tip: To make this dish vegetarian, omit Italian sausage. Enjoy!

Published in The News and Neighbor on November 25, 2020.

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