Dish of the Week: Butternut Squash Lasagna
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.
This week, we’re giving an Italian classic a makeover for fall with Butternut Squash Lasagna.
Traditionally, lasagne — a type of flat, wide pasta — are layered and baked along with marinara or ragù, béchamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants in the United States added ingredients like mozzarella, ricotta and sausage. Either way, the end result is a rich, decadent dish topped with molten cheese.
There are several theories on the origin of the dish — referred to as lasagna — but all date back to ancient times. One such theory is that it was born in ancient Rome, where a similar dish called lasana or lasanum (Latin for the word “cooking pot”) was made. Eventually the food took on the name of this dish in which it was made. It is also thought to have come from the Greek word laganon, which was used to describe flat strips of pasta dough.
While butternut squash wasn’t in the ancient Roman version of lasagna, it does make an excellent addition for fall. This recipe, from Giada De Laurentiis, incorporates a bit of crumbled amaretti cookies to give the squash texture. The dish gets layered with béchamel, squash puree, pasta and cheese before being baked until golden brown and bubbling.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
Ingredients serves 8-10
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
3 amaretti cookies, crumbled
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
To make the squash puree: Heat the oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and 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. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper.
To make the béchamel: Melt the butter 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 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender*. 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.
*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.
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Lightly butter a 13x9x2-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.
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