Sunday, October 3, 2010

butternut squash lasagna

It is officially fall. There is a crispness in the air. Colors are changing from bright greens to burnt oranges and yellows. Though the days have remained beautiful and sunny, I've awoken the past two nights from slumber to the sound of rain - a sound I haven't heard for months.

With the transition from tank tops to sweaters also comes the ripening of fall crops: apples, squashes, cruciferous veggies. One of my personal favorites that is available here year-round, but seems to fit into fall fare best is butternut squash.

Our friends Todd & Rachael came over for dinner last night: as expected, it was an evening filled with great food, some amazing wines, and entertaining conversation. I spent the day planning and making our meal, selecting butternut squash for the main course and incorporating apples, sage, and goat cheese to tie us from one dish to the next. For me, this meal marked our culinary transition into autumn. Here's what we ate:
I had been considering the idea of butternut squash lasagna for some time. My basic idea was to transform squash risotto into lasagna form, including lasagna staples like ricotta and mozzarella. The resulting dish was tremendous: flavorful without being too rich, filling without being too heavy, full of cheesy, butternut squash and sagey goodness. I am already looking forward to eating the leftovers for dinner tonight. Here's what I did:

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Serves 6-8

1 medium butternut squash
9 lasagna noodles
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
15 oz. whole milk ricotta
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
4 c. fresh mozzarella, grated
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 c. fresh sage, roughly chopped
1 c. mushroom stock
3 oz. fresh parmesan, shaved

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Brush with olive oil and place cut-side down in glass baking dish. Roast in 400-degree oven until soft, about 60 minutes.

Cook lasagna noodles according to directions. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Add ricotta, cream, egg yolks, and 2 c. mozzarella. Mix to incorporate. Set aside.

In the same pan used to cook onions, melt butter over medium heat. Add sage leaves. Cook until sage is light gold and begins to crisp, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Scoop flesh of roasted squash into the same large bowl. Add broth. Stir to combine.

Spread 1 c. of the ricotta mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish. Cover with a layer of noodles. Top noodles with 1/2 squash mixture, then another cup of ricotta mixture. Repeat. Top final noodle layer with remaining ricotta mixture, remaining 2 c. mozzarella, and parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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