Butternut squash Lasagne (#PastaFriday)

Butternut-Squash-Lasagna-(6434)

This pasta recipe has practically written itself. I think this has been one of my busiest weeks so far, and one of the most productive, though not in terms of work. I’m really behind on my writing course work, so unfortunately I have to try to remedy that all day tomorrow. I won’t be able to finish everything but I have allotted the whole morning to that. Tough. But now we have aircon units in the office so at least I can continue working even through the afternoon heat. *Pumping fists in the air*

It’s been a fab Friday so far though. There’s a lovely cool breeze around. I spent my morning, taking a mountain of glass jars and bottles to the recycling bins down the road, then I caught up with an old friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in ages, spent more than two hours talking about everything under the sun over a nice meal, squeezed in a little veggie shop while comparing notes on various recipes, I also bought a new lime coloured dress…Shh and returned home right after lunchtime. Life is good.

One of our many topics during our discussion was our mutual love for butternut squash, which made me think of the winter. The only thing I don’t really like about squash is the peeling-and-cutting-it-into-pieces bit. You don’t just need a sharp knife for that, you also need strong wrists. When I forget to ask J to do that, I find that my Santoku knife helps, but still, it can be awkward. A solution to this is to substitute it with pumpkin which is much easier to handle, and tastes just as good, though you will lose the nutty flavour that you get from the squash. But you win some, then lose some, in life and in cooking. To me that’s perfectly acceptable though so it’s no biggie.

This is my take for #PastaFriday for this week. I know. I know – this may seem  like a mammoth recipe and a little too much, but make it when you have some time on your hands. Don’t rush it, because this is not a thirty-minute meal. I never claimed this would be. Keep calm and be cool and it will be worth your time. Please give me a shout on social media or comment below if you try this in the coming days or weeks or for any links to your favourite pasta or lasagne recipes. As always, thanks for stopping by. If you’re in the mood for a meat lasagne I have posted another one a while ago, with more photos and guide on assembly.

For the pasta:

  • around 700g to 900g lasagna sheets (around 30 sheets)

For the butternut squash filling:

  • 1 to 2 large butternut squash (or pumpkin*), of around 900g each, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • regular olive oil
  • a few leaves of dried sage
  • cinnamon
  • salt

For the tomato sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala or mixed spice
  • 2 shots red vermouth
  • 500g passata di pomodoro (chopped tinned tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • around 250ml water
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the ricotta filling:

  • 500g ricotta
  • 500g frozen spinach, thawed; you could also steam fresh baby spinach, and set it aside to cool
  • around 6 tablespoons milk, or enough just to thin the mixture a little bit
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 25g butter
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 litre semi-skimmed milk

For the butternut squash filling, cut them into chunks and place them on a shallow roasting tray, preferably in one even layer. Pour enough regular olive oil to cover the vegetable chunks, together with a good pinch of salt, cinnamon and dried sage leaves. Roast in a 200°C oven for around 25 to 30 minutes until the squash is tender and lightly browned. If you use pumpkin* instead please note that the roasting time is much shorter. Remove from the oven and set aside.

To prepare the tomato sauce, place a large pan preferably with a heavy base on medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Chop the onion, crush the garlic and tip in the pan, together with the spices, and stir occasionally. Once the onions have softened and turned opaque pour in the vermouth and let it cook through. Pour the tinned tomatoes and sugar stir, add the water, give everything a good stir, cover and let it simmer for around 20 to 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

For the ricotta mixture, I suggest you remove as much of the spinach water as you can. To do this, simply thaw on a sieve on top of a bowl and squash the spinach downwards with your hands or a spoon. Place the spinach in a medium mixing bowl, together with the ricotta, milk, add salt and pepper, give everything a good mix and now is the time to taste. When you’re happy with the seasoning, add the beaten eggs, stir and set aside.

To assemble the lasagne, pour a thin layer of sauce, enough to cover the bottom of the dish. Then build the lasagne alternating as many pasta sheets as you can fit in one layer (I can fit 6 in mine), then a layer of sauce, a layer of the butternut squash filling, another layer of lasagna sheets, a layer of ricotta mixture, a layer of lasagna sheets and start the process again, until you get almost to the top.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and set everything aside to prepare the bechamel. In a small heavy-based saucepan make a roux, by melting the butter, adding the flour and stir vigorously until you get a golden paste, around 6 minutes will do the trick. Then as you whisk, gradually add the milk, a little at a time. Whisk to avoid any lumps and once in a while scrape the bottom sides of the pan so that nothing sticks to it. Whisk in all the milk until you get a nice velvety sauce. Add salt and pepper and some grated nutmeg.

Pour over the top layer of the assembled lasagne and bake for 1 hour.

Leave to stand for 15 minutes and serve to 6-8 hungry people. You could enjoy this one with a glass of red. And why not?

Rob.

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