Lasagna, in Thirty Sage-Scented Minutes

November 13, 2008

lasagna

I have to confess that there’s a big upshot to my camera-flash-less existence, which I bemoaned less than 48 hours ago right here on this site.  I was whining (who, me?!!) about the fact that the practically Alaskan length of daylight going on right now in Chicago, combined with my need to photograph the food that I cook (it’s important!) and my desire to avoid my camera’s less-than-stellar built-in flash, has forced me to cram all my cooking into the hours between sunrise and sunset on Saturday and Sunday.  (Or to take photos in my office, which I’d like to avoid moving forward.)

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While this leads to quite a weekend kitchen frenzy, it’s not all bad.  For one thing, I’ve been spending a lot of weekend time doing something that I love (and also, lest you worry, making time for other weekend things I love, like going to dinner with Kevin, wandering around the city on foot, and melting into my favorite nook of the couch).  But, even better, it’s meant that I make a lot of things in advance.  Soup is a natural here: eat on Sunday night and pack into tupperware for lunches throughout the week.   And, last weekend, lasagna fit the bill.  So, on Sunday, I assembled a pan and stuck it in the fridge, so we could bake it off during the week.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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(Also, because I’m incredibly inpatient, we baked a mini-pan as well, so that we could taste-test it immediately.  So that’s the story behind the diminutive round lasagna pictured up top and down below).

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Now, I know that not just one but two lasagna recipes have already taken up residence in this site’s Recipe Index.  But, my husband’s love for baked pasta is truly boundless and, anyway, this recipe is a whole different animal than those two red-sauced, mozzarella-stuffed stand-bys.  Really, the only thing that today’s recipe has in common with those two recipes is that all three involve broad lasagna pasta sheets. Really, that’s it.  (Okay, fine, they all three call for garlic, parmesan cheese and salt too.  Sue me.)

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This recipe trades marinara for bechamel and instructs you to alternately tuck sauteed spinach and roasted nuggets of butternut squash between layers of the ruffle-edge noodles.  What results is not only a beautiful—the cross-section view boasts autumnal stripes of emerald green and vivid orange—but delicious.

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But the best part of all is that when Kevin and I got home on Tuesday, after long days of work and then some soggy errands, a pan of this lasagna was waiting in the fridge, ready to slip into the oven.  Thirty or so sage-scented minutes later, I pulled the pan out of the oven, the bechamel bubbling around the edges and the cheesy lid nicely browned.  We feasted and it was all just so cozy and comforting and easy.  Maybe this flash-free lifestyle isn’t so bad after all.

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Spinach & Butternut Squash Lasagna
Cooking Light

Serves 6 to 8

3 cups 2% milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup minced shallots
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
8 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 (6-ounce) bags fresh baby spinach
9 cooked lasagna noodles (8 ounces uncooked noodles)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook milk in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat; keep warm.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Melt butter in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; cook 2 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat; add flour to pan, and cook 5 minutes or until smooth and golden, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add about 2 tablespoons warm milk to flour mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Gradually add remaining warm milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, until mixture is smooth, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon 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; set aside.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Place squash in a large bowl. Add vinegar; toss to coat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; toss to coat. Arrange squash in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, thyme and sage. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

Combine remaining 1 teaspoon oil, red pepper, and garlic in a Dutch oven over medium heat; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add spinach, 1 bag at a time; cook until wilted, stirring frequently. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook until liquid evaporates, stirring frequently.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Spoon 1/3 cup milk mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over milk mixture; top with spinach mixture, 2/3 cup milk mixture, 1/2 cup Asiago, and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Arrange 3 noodles over cheese; top with squash mixture, 2/3 cup milk mixture, remaining 1/2 cup Asiago, and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Arrange remaining 3 noodles on top of cheese; spread remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.


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23 Responses to “Lasagna, in Thirty Sage-Scented Minutes”

  1. Monica h Says:

    Ooh, I want that piece of slightly burnt cheese stuck to the pan. That’s my favorite part of the lasagna.

    Lucky for me, I just bought butternut squash :-)

  2. Marianne Says:

    Now that is one lasagna I would eat! I’m not a fan of any tomato sauce on pasta, so this is right up my alley. I may just have to make some.

  3. sue bette Says:

    I love the min-pan idea – that might be a really neat way to serve lasagna for a party. I love the ingredients in this recipe, very fall and very comforting.

  4. Cindy Ruth Says:

    Your lasagna looks just wonderful. And I’m laughing about your reference to the short days in Alaska and trying to take photos for your blog-I live in Alaska, and work most days, so I’m now forced to use some type of lighting for photos for my blog, since we’re now in our shorter days. Today the sun rises at 9:05am and sets at 4:23pm.

  5. Whitney Says:

    And now I have yet another one of your posts to put at the top of my “Must Cook This Weekend” list. I am intrigued by the flavors in this recipe because I am a huge fan of my twist on traditional lasagna but this seems like the perfect use for all the beautiful and inexpensive squash that is hanging around at the markets. I can’t wait to see what your weekend cooking marathon provides us with next week.

  6. Dana Treat Says:

    First of all – YUM. I usually “just say no” to white sauce lasagnas because they are too fattening, but yay for Cooking Light! Also, I totally feel your pain about lighting. I live in Seattle and feel like I am constantly racing to get photos in before the sun sets. I am considering investing in some lights!

  7. diane (mom) Says:

    You know I share Kevin’s love for baked pasta and I can’t wait to try this different take on yummy lasagna.Do you think Ren will notice the absence of protein?We are counting the days until we can cook together.MOM

  8. Polly Says:

    I LOVE every single key ingredient here, this can’t possibly be a miss! I have been loving your last several recipes and can’t wait to make them all.

  9. Hillary Says:

    Yum! That looks magnificent! Good main course for a vegetarian Thanksgiving too! Look at all that gooey cheese :)

  10. Marthaki Says:

    I just discovered your blog and I love it. I will definitely try this recipe. Thanks

  11. holler Says:

    That looks lovely! It was well worth the weekend frenzy! I think I am in the same place just now, trying to fit cooking into my days off, to catch some light. It is a real pain.

  12. Sarah Says:

    Excellent! Delicious!

  13. Peggy Says:

    YUM! (I just came over from the granola pages to see what else was cooking.) It is dark here in Portland, Oregon as well although probably not as bad as all those other places.
    There are so many great recipes but I can’t figure out how to print just the recipe without everything else so I write them down… probably a good thing or I’d be trying them all. (Where are those computer savvy teenagers when you need them?!)

  14. Jonathan Says:

    lovely pictures. and, ah ha! you kept the squash in chunks. great idea for a different type of texture.

  15. Iris Says:

    my roommates and i got together over the weekend to try this out. thank you! thank you! the whole pan of lasagna was finished in less than 30 minutes.
    what a great fall recipe, especially with thanksgiving coming up. we are definitely making this again. thank you!

  16. Dawn in CA Says:

    I just bought some butternut squash and was planning to make risotto… but I may have to rethink my plans after reading this. Already imagining how I can tweak this recipe to be dairy-free (hello, soy and rice products). ;) The baby lasagna made me think how cute and delicious this would be as an appetizer cooked in a mini-muffin pan, maybe with a shell noodle in place of the lasagna sheets. Yum!


  17. Monica h: I should’ve lined the pan. I had to chisel that yummy cheese off with a knife.

    Marianne: Well, it’s a good thing I posted a third lasagna recipe then! The first two wouldn’t have fit your bill.

    sue bette: I like the party idea! I made some mini-baked macs in a muffin tin. I, like Dawn (below), wonder if that would work here …

    Cindy Ruth: Okay, I have no grounds to complain! (Well, today at least …)

    Whitney: Give it a try!

    Dana Treat: I know what you mean about bechamel-based recipes. I have the same guilt.

    Mom: Less than 2 weeks!!!

    Polly: Thank you!

    Hillary: That’s an excellent point! I tend to forget about those, given my very carnivorous Thanksgiving traditions.

    Marthaki, Holler, Sarah: Thanks!

    Peggy: I’m working on something to help with this. In the meantime, you can highlight the recipe, copy and paste it into a word document and print that document. Not ideal, I know.

    Jonathan: Thanks!

    Iris: Yay! I’m so glad you tried and liked it!

    Dawn in CA: Sue Bette’s idea (above) made me think the same thing! I think you could even cut a lasagna noodle to size. If you come up with a dairy free fix, let us know. I’m sure there are others who would be interested.

  18. Betsy Says:

    I made this recipe earlier this week and am eating it for lunch at work as I write. It is delicious! I think I may have reduced the milk mixture too much though because I didn’t have much liquid to pour on top, so the top layer of noodles are a bit too dry and crunchy. Do you remember how long you cooked the milk mixture on the stovetop for – for next time? Thanks for another great recipe!


  19. Betsy: Hmmm, no I don’t remember how long I let it cook. But if you’re getting down to the end of your layers and you’re short on the sauce, you could always whisk in a bit more milk to stretch it out a bit. I’m glad you gave it a shot! Thanks for the report.

  20. Chris Says:

    Hi Kristin —

    I made this for a party we threw last night; it got rave reviews! The only downer is that it got eaten so quickly, and there weren’t any leftovers, so I wasn’t able to take pictures of it for my site. :) I made it with a mix of butternut and acorn squash since that’s what arrived in our CSA box this week. Thanks for posting the recipe.

    -Chris

  21. Dawn in CA Says:

    Hi Kristin, following up on the dairy-free redux! Made this last night and it got a big thumbs-up from my meat-loving husband. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Subbed in soy milk, mozarella-flavored veggie shreds for the two cheeses, dried herbs (b/c that’s what I had on hand), omitted the red pepper (my kids don’t like spicy stuff) and upped the salt just a bit (veggie cheeses are kind of bland). I adjusted the herb quantities down since dried herbs are stronger than fresh when baked. Although the end result was delicious, non-dairy cheeses tend to be much drier and less fatty than their milk counter-parts, so I am trying to think of how I can further tweak the recipe so it is moist without being runny. Maybe just a thinner bechamel alone would do the trick. This is an easy but TIME-consuming recipe, with lots of pots, so not very busy-mom friendly. ;) Next time I’ll make it in stages over two days. Upside? Tastes great and looks beautiful on the plate. One tip for other non-dairy folks out there: at the end of baking, give the top layer of “cheese” a quick spritz/spray of olive oil, then place under the broiler for a few minutes for a crispy, toasty-brown top. :)

  22. Dawn in CA Says:

    p.s. – oops, that’s way longer than I intended. Feel free to delete if it’s taking up too much space on your site. :)

  23. April Says:

    I made this last night with ingredients from my CSA box and boy was it DELICIOUS. Thank you!


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