One of my favorite dishes to make in the fall is Butternut Squash Lasagna. It is always a big hit at dinner parties or during the holidays and it makes great leftovers. The recipe is not “perfect” in that it does have some saturated fat, but I feel like the not so healthy part of it can be overlooked (on occasion) because the butternut squash is loaded with carotenes, vitamins C and B1, folic acid, potassium and fiber.
Cook’s Note: Instead of buying a whole butternut squash, purchase 2 packages of Cascadian Farms “Organic Winter Squash” in the frozen section of most grocery stores including Henrys and Whole Foods. Or, if you are a Costco shopper, you can purchase butternut squash that is already peeled and cubed during the fall months.
Also, Amaretti cookies are Italian macaroons. You can find these at Whole Foods, CostPlus World Market and many grocery stores. If you decide not to use them just sprinkle in some cinnamon for additional seasoning. I have made the recipe several times without the Ameretti cookies and it came out just fine.
If you would like to reduce the calorie and fat content, use less cheese. The recipe still comes out great.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds of butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper and ground sea salt (unless you are avoiding salt)
1/2 cup water
3 crumbled Amaretti cookies
1/4 cup butter (or Earth Balance)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (You can substitute whole wheat flour)
3 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 boiled whole wheat lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups shredded lowfat mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
(Skip Step 1 if you are using the Cascadian Farm pureed Winter Squash. Simply follow directions on package to heat.)
Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Blend until smooth.
Add the amaretti cookies and pulse. Season the squash puree, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter or Earth Balance in a heavy medium-size 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 the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly.
Transfer half of the sauce to a blender or food processor (Please see note below about blending hot liquids.) Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times. Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.
*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.
I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as my family does.