Thursday, December 4, 2008

Butternut Squash, Spinach, and toasty sage lasagna

Awhile ago we bought a butternut squash, that I then used for roasted vegetables on Thanksgiving (eh, okay), a butternut squash risotto, and this very similar dish. The taste of sage and butternut squash are now fall staples for me-- and I've decided I probably should make this for my mom (who hates squash) nearer to Christmas to see if I can get her to change her mind. You don't taste squash, really, though I don't find the taste of squash bad at all. You taste sweetness, and the earthy, herby quality of the sage. They combine really well, melding together to assault your senses.
Eating this brought me back to Colorado. It felt like Winter, even though it was only 60 degrees in the center of Los Angeles.
The original recipe was white sauce-- which reminded me of a lasagna a friend of mine made in college. She always made a white sauce lasagna with spinach, and it was pretty okay. But I have a hard time thinking of lasagna without red sauce-- it's not enough variety in flavours for me, perhaps. I'm not the kind of alfredo girl I probably should be, I stick more to pink and red sauces, and I couldn't deny the love of the sweetness of tomatoes in this either.

So I added vodka sauce. And I think that the sweetness of it went very well with the squash. Who's to say you can't have such a thing without pure cream.

I also didn't really want to run out and buy cheeses just for the lasagna. I had oxaca and asadero left over from my Carne Asada Quiche and felt like they'd do just fine. Oxaca is very mozzarella like-- though a bit blander in flavour. It's more like fresh mozzarella, but not quite as rich, and asadero is... is soft, and slightly sweet. It too reminds me of mozzarella, buffalo variety, or ricotta, or a mix of both. And so I used both, grating it over the lasagna and making it a little more continental.

I topped it with sage leaves, the idea I got from not only my risotto but also from the blog that I originally saw this recipe at. I'm glad to have tried recipes for butternut squash this season-- they've become new favourites and staples, I believe, for my ever growing culinary adventure.
Spinach & Butternut Squash Lasagna
Recipe divided and inspired from The Kitchen Sink
Serves 3-5

1 1/2 cup milk
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup chopped sweet onion
3/4 teaspoons sea salt, divided
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup tomato vodka sauce
1 1/2 cup cubed, peeled butternut squash (about 1/3 of a regular sized butternut squash)
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 oz, or 1/2 bag of frozen spinach
5 cooked lasagna noodles
1/2 cup grated asadero cheese
1/2 cup grated oaxaca cheese
2 teaspoons chopped sage leaves

Cook milk in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles form around edge. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Melt the butter in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add onions; cook 2 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat and add the flour to pan, and cook 5 minutes or until smooth and golden, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add about 2 tablespoons warm milk to flour mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Gradually add remaining warm milk, until mixture is smooth, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and cook until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat. Cover surface of milk mixture with plastic wrap and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Place squash in a large bowl. Add vinegar; toss to coat. Add 1 teaspoon oil and toss to coat. Arrange squash in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper, thyme and sage. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

Combine remaining oil, red pepper, and garlic in a pan over medium heat; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add spinach and cook until wilted, stirring frequently. Add remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt; cook until liquid evaporates, stirring frequently.

Combine the cheeses.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Spoon 1/2 cup tomato mixture in bottom of a small sized baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange noodles over the sauce, top with half the spinach mixture, half the cream sauce, and 1/4 of the cheeses. Cover with a layer of more noodles, top with the majority of the butternut squash, the rest of the red sauce, and 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Top with another layer of noodles, place the remaining spinach and squash together, top with 3/4 of the white sauce, cover with 1/4 of the cheese, chopped sage and another layer of noodles. Top the last noodles with remaining white sauce and cheese and a few full sage leaves. a Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly and let stand 15 minutes before serving.


MHAithaca said...

Thanks for the recipe! The vodka sauce is a nice touch. I'm really going to have to do some shopping and try this soon.

Kevin said...

That lasagna looks good!