Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Roasted Squash Lasagna

So we finally did it after talking about it for weeks....me made our roasted squash lasagna from scratch. That's the pasta and all folks! First, a big thank you to my old boss in Australia who first gave me a similar recipe to make for the hoards of backpackers at the Arts Factory Hostel. Lasagna has never been the same since.

Roasted squash mash:
1 small acorn or buttercup squash (those crazy Aussies call it pumpkin!!!)
1 T. butter
1-2 t. brown sugar or maple syrup

Marinara sauce:
1 can of crushed tomatoes or fresh if they're in season
1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
red and green pepper (So we didn't have a lot of produce in the house when we made the lasagna and, thus, only added peppers. I would normally add whatever veg I had on hand especially mushrooms, broccoli, and zucchini.)
pinch brown sugar
handful fresh basil
salt, fresh ground pepper 
olive oil

Bechamel:
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 1/2 c. milk or soy/rice/almond milk
nutmeg, to taste
salt, fresh ground pepper

Spinach pasta (courtesy of allrecipes.com):
1 1/4 c spinach
2 T water
1 egg
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 t salt

as much cheese as you can handle (we used old cheddar and Parmesan but mozzarella would work too)

While this lasagna is our most fav recipe, it clearly has many steps and so requires some time and planning. First, you need to roast the squash. Peeling a squash, especially the hard shelled acorn or buttercup varieties we prefer, can be difficult so roasting is an easier way to get to the goods with less work. Simply, slice the squash into wedges, scooping out the seeds, and roast in a 350 degree oven, turning once, until it is tender enough to easily poke with a fork. Let cool.

While the squash is cooking, you can start your marinara sauce. Get some olive oil in your pan then saute the onions, then garlic, then whatever vegetables you have. A splash of red wine doesn't hurt either! Add the crushed tomatoes and season with a bit of brown sugar, basil, any other spice you like (oregano, rosemary or thyme), and of course some s&p. Now taste. This is the most important part. It should be full of tomato-y goodness without being too acidic or bland. Adjust accordingly. Then, let this simmer until you are ready to assemble.

Now on to the pasta. Luckily, Brent started the pasta while I continued with the bechamel sauce. It certainly helps having a team! For the pasta, we used a recipe that Brent's sis had included with the wonderful gift of the pasta machine.

Simply cook the spinach in the water til tender (keep covered). This should only take a few minutes. Blend the spinach, remaining liquid, egg, and salt in a blender til smooth. Then pour in a bowl and add enough flour to form a stiff dough. Knead on a floured surface a few times, incorporating more flour as needed. Then start pressing the dough through the pasta machine. This may take some time to get right but when you do, you'll feel the difference. (Note: we did not let the dough rest as the recipe states)

So, I know it may seem crazy, but I make my bechamel (and any white sauce for that matter) without a recipe. Essentially, to make a bechamel, melt some butter in a pan. Add flour and cook stirring for about 6 min. until it just starts to brown (this is called a roux).  Add milk, whisking to incorporate the roux. Heat til boiling then reduce heat and simmer til thickened. Add nutmeg and salt a pinch at a time til it tastes right. In case you haven't had the pleasure of being acquainted with bechamel sauce, the one I love should be creamy with a hint of nutmeg and just the perfect touch of salt. Because I don't expect you to wing it, here is a link to a bechamel recipe! (And clearly, I even cheat at making it the 'right' way. Also, half this recipe if you are only using it for the lasagna.)

When the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape out the filling and mash. Add butter and brown sugar or maple syrup. Since squash is inherently a little sweet, you could easily omit both the butter and the sugar but it does make it that much more delicious.

Besides grating some cheese, you are ready to assemble. First, put some marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9"x13" dish, then a layer of pasta. Cover this with more marinara as well as some cheese, then add a second layer of pasta. Spread the squash evenly over the pasta and cover with the bechamel. Add a third layer of pasta, covering it with more marinara and cheese. Repeat the same for a fourth layer if you have enough pasta, sauce and cheese. Make sure your top layer of pasta is smothered in sauce so it doesn't dry out (although those crunchy bits can be delicious!) Cover and bake for about 30 min, uncovering it for the last 10 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes.

Now, get ready for the best lasagna you have ever tasted! Plus, it's packed full of nutrients: iron, vitamin C, and powerful antioxidants from the spinach, cancer fighting lycopene as well as vitamin C from the tomatoes, a whack of vitamin A from the squash, and calcium and vitamin D from the bechamel and cheese. Enjoy!

Makes 6-8 servings, depending on who you are feeding.