Saturday, November 26, 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Leeks

Next time, I'll change up the layering on the top so it's more colorful!
Contrary to what my grandpa would say, it's fun to shake up traditional pasta dishes. When I called to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving and told him I made a lasagna without tomato sauce, he scoffed (that's what you get when you grow up in a big Italian family and start passing on the spaghetti and meatballs at family dinners). But tomatoes don't grow in these parts year round, so every time I use them, I'm using precious tomatoes that are either picked far away and shipped (consuming fossil fuels that pollute the environment) or that I canned myself (that took a lot of hard work, so I like to save those jars for when I'm really craving tomatoes).
Creamy, Cheesy, Sweet, Savory, Comforting... not low-cal... Deliciousness
For a seasonal spin on lasagna, I like to use local ingredients. Start with one star and let it be your guide. I've even made lasagna without pasta, substituting cabbage for the refined carbs. It was so good; I'll have to make it again soon just so I can share it with you!  Anyway, on to the delicious (not-very-healthy-so-be-forewarned) Butternut Squash Lasagna that I served as part of our Vegetarian Thanksgiving feast alongside a yummy Vegetable Wellington, Maple-Ginger-Cranberry-Sauce, String-Bean Casserole, and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes.
You don't need to kill a bird to be thankful. 
Ingredients for a 9x9 lasagna (roughly double for a 13x9 in lasagna):
1/2 a large or 1 small local butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
3 cups of low-sodium organic vegetable broth (or water, or water + a low sodium veggie bouillon cube)
1/2 box of no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Barilla)
2 tb butter (gasp! use a local artisnal butter if you can or substitute olive or coconut oil if you have a thing against an occasional dose of butter)
2 leeks, sliced length-wise, chopped into semi-circles, and rinsed thoroughly
1 small sweet yellow onion, chopped
1-2 tb flour and/or cornstarch
1 8-oz tub of marscapone (I really like the one from Trader Joe's because it's THICK)
1/2 c half-and-half (or nut cream or heavy cream if you want)
1/4 c shredded cheese (I used a combo of mozzarella, provolone, asiago, and Parmesan)
Fresh Sage, 4 leaves, finely chopped
Fresh Nutmeg
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a medium pot, cover the butternut squash with broth or water. Turn heat to medium-high, cover, and cook until squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes.
I used a Rapunzel Veg Bouillon Cube. Green specks are dried herbs. 
While the squash is cooking, brown 4 sage leaves in the butter.
Butter and Sage were meant to be together.
Add the leeks and saute until the leeks are soft and translucent. You can brown them a little if you'd like a stronger and sweeter leek flavor. Remove the leeks from the pan and set aside.
The leeks added a ton of flavor to the lasagna. 
Turn the heat to medium and add some more butter if there's none left in your pan. Melt the butter, add the onion and saute until translucent.  Turn the heat down to low and add a tablespoon of flour to make an imperfect roux. For a proper roux, you would add equal parts flour to melted butter and whisk to combine, but I often just add the flour to sauteed onion and stir well to combine.
Imperfect Roux with Onions
Add the half-and-half. Wisk together over medium heat. Add the masrcapone (Google is telling me that's not a word and suggests I change it to .) and continue whisking until well-combined. Add some freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to finish.
Where's that dairy from? COWS! Do they eat grass like they're supposed to?
To make the sauce really come together, you might want to blend it. I tossed mine in my Vitamix with a tb of cornstarch dissolved in a 1/4 cup of cold water to thicken it up a bit.
Can you see the fat? This isn't a meal that should be consumed regularly!
By now, the squash should be ready. Remove the squash from the broth with a slotted spoon and place into a food processor or high-powered blender with some of the broth/water (you only need enough to make sure the blender/food processor will be happy blending, so this depends on how tender the squash is. If it's falling apart, you only need a little liquid. If it's still on the firm side, use a little more. I clearly didn't measure. Just eyeball it. It's lasagna. You can't really screw it up!). Puree the squash until smooth.

Now it's time to start assembling your lasagna. Spread a thin layer of squash on the bottom of your pan. Cover with 1 layer of lasagna noodles.

Then a layer of squash followed by a layer of all the leeks...
... followed by a layer of sauce...
... followed by noodles then squash...
... and a layer of cheese...
... then sauce...
 ... pasta, squash...
... sauce...
 ... cheese...
 Almost ready for the oven now!
Finally, cover with tin foil and bake according to package recommendations.

Barilla said to bake, covered with foil until bubbly, 50-60 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. This recipe should yield around 6-8 servings, depending on how hungry you are!

(note on the pan: I used a 9x9 inch pyrex, which worked perfectly with my barilla no-boil pasta. Try to use glass or ceramic. non-stick metal pans leech harmful toxins into your food and nobody wants that.)