Lasagna, in Thirty Sage-Scented Minutes
November 13, 2008
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.)
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.)
(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).
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.)
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.
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.
Spinach & Butternut Squash Lasagna
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
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.