Butternut Squash Lasagna

This lasagna is a real crowd pleaser: creamy without being oily with a good punch of squashiness. It lacks the often painfully long lasagna prep and is very easy to throw together. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on this pan o’ noodles, and we all know how much I love to be flattered.

You will need:
1 medium-sized Kabocha squash (or a medium Butternut)
*Kabocha squash is commonly used in Asian cooking; you often see it in tempura and think it’s sweet potato. It has a very distinctive green rind and is often referred to as pumpkin on the menus.
2 large shallots
2 leeks
2 T olive oil
2 T white wine
1/4 c butter
1/4 c flour
S & P
pinch nutmeg
1 quart milk
2 c shredded mozzerella
1 lb cottage cheese
3/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1 package ready-bake lasagna noodles

Heat your oven to 400 degrees and bake the squash, cut in half with cut side up, until a fork goes through easily.

Dice the shallots and leek, making sure to rinse the leek thoroughly! Saute over medium-high heat with the olive oil until soft.

Meanwhile, warm the milk over low heat, stirring occasionally. There’s nothing quite like a pan of burnt, disgusting milk, so make sure you remember to give it a shimmy and a shake every now and then. Otherwise, you’ll be making all the mama cows out there cry!

When the leeks and shallots are soft, reduce with a shot of white wine:

add the butter:

(mmm fat) with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. When the butter has melted, add the flour and mix until incorporated.

Cook for a minute or two. When the roux is nice and thick, slowly add one cup of the warm milk.

And stir until smooth. It’s important not to add all of the milk at once; if you do, it will be a lot harder to have a smooth mixture and your hand will get tired from whisking so much. Slowly add the rest of the milk and cook until thickened, stirring constantly.

Turn off the heat.

Mash up the squash in a separate bowl

and add it to the milk mixture:

Stir it until somewhat homogenous and then go at it with an immersion blender:

And, voila! You will have a beautiful, smooth, bright orange mixture to behold:

Mix together the shredded mozzarella and cottage cheese

And you’re ready to assemble! BOOM!

Grease a 13″x9″ pan thoroughly. Spread a thin layer of squash-sauce on the bottom:

Layer noodles, more squash-sauce, the cottage-mozz mixture, and a generous sprinkling of parm until you run out of ingredients. It should be about 3 chunky layers:

The top of the lasagna should be parm and cheese-mixture, but not a lot of it. Just a dabble.

Let this sit for about 20 minutes to let the noodles absorb some liquid before they go into the oven.

Preheat your oven to 375 and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

Personally, I think this is best served the next day; however, I have much higher standards than the average minion and don’t expect all of you to live up to my superior taste buds.

Now go get your nom on!

Pesto Lasagna

Yes.  Yes I am.  Ever since I lectured myself on the beauty and wonder that is a perfectly crafted lump of pasta-sauce-cheese, I just can’t get enough of the stuff.  I found myself sneaking (who am I hiding from? my cat?) into the refrigerator late at night (grandma here considers “late” to be about, oh, 8:45pm) and snarfing spoonfuls.  I had to hide it in the freezer.  Whew! Dodged that bullet.

But now the guns are blazing again, ready for round two.  AND I’m going to finish it off with a lavender (there it is!) cheesecake with a lemon glaze.  What’s the number for Jenny Craig…? Get it on my speed dial, STAT.

MMmm calories.

I was feeling particularly crafty this morning.  Probably something to do with the full moon, but my brain didn’t seem to want to settle on one simple ingredient to focus on today.  It jumped from basil to pesto to lasagna to squash and then to kale.  ???? Hey! why not? Sometimes you need to go a little cray-cray (that’s slang for “crazy pants,” in case you’re not hip and cool like me).

So here is my helter-skelter, creamy pesto lasagna with kobocha squash and dinosaur kale (rawr!).

First I made a giant batch of pesto.  I hate to say it, but I don’t know how to write.  Obviously, that’s a lie, BUT I don’t know how to write down things while I’m cooking.  Ergo, vis-a-vis, etc, I can rarely repeat a recipe because I forget how much of this or that I put in it.  I am learning and improving though, so stick with me and have some faith.  My pesto went something like this (I’m using terms that I’m assuming only those among the Appalachians still keep alive):

4 large handfuls of basil, washed and dryed (be careful with basil, it is delicate and bruises easily)
4 handfuls of spinach
2 cups chopped toasted almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, favorite nut
2 cups grated parmesan
1 head garlic, peeled
ground pepper
olive oil (I don’t put an amount in because some people like their pesto more liquidy, some like it more hearty.  for this recipe I put in a minimal amount since I didn’t want oil pooling on the lasagna.  Icky gross).

Toss everything but the oil into a cuisinart, or if you’re old school, chop it all very fine and mix by hand.  Don’t judge– I had to do that before I got my fancy machine.  I had some nice hand muscles because of it (jealous?).

Stream the olive oil while the motor is running until you get the desired consistency.  Now grab a cracker or your favorite finger and try some out.  Give yourself a high-five, transfer pesto to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Grab another cracker.

Now, I hope you’re ready to be annoyed by must infuriating vegetable I have yet to come across.

The Kabocha squash.  It looks all cute and innocent, like a fat little cherub or something equally as inoffensive.  Do not be deceived, you poor bloggers.  Now, admittedly, I’ve had some run-ins with other squash relatives (butternut and I have a long history) but this one took the cake.  I think it’s flat-yet-round physique combined with an incrediblyhard peel/skin/metal casing thing made it near impossible to attack with a vegetable peeler.  So I had to go at it with my fancy knife.  And this is how it went down:

I had to leave the room for a few minutes and meditate with some Prince in my earbuds before I could return to the scene of the crime.  Just remember, party people: patience is a virtue.  Find your chi and center the hell out of it before purchasing a Kabocha.
I bought two of these little monster and cut them into thin slices.  For the Kale, one bunch was sufficient for this lasagna.  Just rip the greens off the “rib”, rinse, and chop into smaller pieces.
Lovely!  If you don’t feel like giving yourself a high five again for such excellent work, go ahead take a shot of vodka, eat a tub of ice cream, or whatever it is that makes you feel like a man.
Onwards: to the Bechamel! Same story as last time:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
4 cups warm milk
Salt and Pep
I didn’t add garlic this time because I think you’ll be able to ward enough a herd of vampires with the amount of G that’s in the pesto.  But feel free to add it to the bechamel if you’re feeling inadequate.
So melt the butter, add the flour, stir it around, add the milk a little at a time.  Yes, this is the clifsnotes version.  So sue me.
Don’t get discouraged if your mixture looks like this when you add the milk:
Just keep whisking, just keep whisking.  It won’t look like unappetizing curdled goat cheese for long, and it definitely won’t taste like it, either.
Now comes the fun part!  I added the pesto (probably about 4 cups) to the bechamel and stirred until smooth:
So pretty.  And you’re in the home stretch, ladies and germs. It’s hammer time.
So you have:
Lasagna noodles
creamy pesto sauce
Start with a layer of sauce, then:
1) noodles
2) sauce
3) squash
4) kale
Repeat 3 more times.  Because of the kale, my lasagna was about an inch higher than the pan.  BUT since squash and kale reduce in size as they cook, worried was I not.
Looks like a hot mess, right?  Never fear, comrades.  It was DELICIOUS!  It’s nice to have spin on regular lasagna, and this one stole the show.  It wasn’t greasy like most pesto lasagnas can be and the veggies were a good complement.  Bravo.  It might be interesting to mix up the type of pesto (perhaps using all spinach for a milder flavor, walnuts paired with butternut squash and a sage cream sauce…possibilities are endless!)  I can see goat cheese being deeeeelightful in this.  Nom nom!

Meat Lasagna

Oh sure.  You could slap some beef ragu on some penne, maybe mix in a little cream if you’re feeling frisky, and then call it a day.  But where’s the love?  The comfort? The blood, sweat, tears??  If you want people to think you’re merely average then I implore you to follow through with the above method of entertaining.  It’ll get you a solid 3 out of 5.

But not this lady.  I want people (and by people, sometimes I mean just me…sometimes it’s all just for me!) to know that I positively slaved over a complicated process that would make even Leonardo cross his eyes in wonderment.  And why?

Continue reading “Meat Lasagna” »