I thought it would be fun to designate Sunday to be my day to take on a cooking project. A day to try a new recipe that involved a new ingredient or a new technique. Over the fall, I had noticed a lot of butternut squash dishes on the menu at restaurants. But I had never thought to tackle a butternut squash dish on my own. The vegetable is somewhat intimidating.
I was pretty unsure how to peel this thing, but found some directions on the internet. I started by cutting off the top and the bottom, so it could stand on a flat surface. My vegetable peeler did not work, so I attempted to peel it with a paring knife. The tip that helped me tremendously was to put the squash in the microwave for about 3 minutes to soften it a bit. It was still a bit of an arm workout, but eventually I got my squash peeled.
At this point I was beginning to wonder if all this work was worth it. But a vegetable would not defeat me, and I had a lasagna to make! It came out really good, and and I will definitely make this recipe in the future.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
Based on Giada De Laurentiis recipe
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 (2 & 1/2 to 3 lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper
1/2 cup water
3 almond flavored cookies, crumbled (the recipe called for amaretti cookies which I could not find)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
12 no boil lasagna noodles
2 & 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet, cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender- approximately 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then place squash into a food processor. Add the crumbled cookies and a pinch of nutmeg and blend until smooth. Season with more salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in medium 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 heat to medium and simmer, whisking often, until sauce slightly thickens- approximately 5 minutes. Whisk in pinch of nutmeg. Cool slightly and transfer half of the sauce into blender. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray or grease with butter. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange 3 of the noodles on top of the sauce. Pour 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the basil sauce over the cheese.
Repeat layering the noodles, squash puree, and cheese 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 noodles. Drizzle with remaining basil sauce.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover the lasagna and sprinkle with remaining mozarella cheese and the parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden-- approximately 15 minutes more. Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.
I was really happy with how this recipe came out. I find the addition of the cookies a bit odd, and next time may just add a touch of almond extract and nutmeg to the squash puree. It was also my first time using no bake lasagna noodles, and wow, that was a nice step to get to skip! Especially with all that extra work cutting up that squash. And thankfully, all that work led to a really nice dish that I will be sure to use in the future.