I know there must be scores of highly efficient, tidy lasagna makers out there in the world. Maybe you’re one of them. As for me, I can’t count myself among your ranks. I’ve made this recipe about a half a dozen times, maybe more, and my kitchen still looks like a disaster when I’m done: lethal shards of dry pasta on the floor, baby-food smudges of squash and ricotta on every available surface.
The good news, though, is all my prep (and cleanup) was taken care of hours before my friends arrived, and half the batch was freezer-bound for a busy weeknight. (Two delicious meals for the price of one!) The great news is that out of my calamitous mess emerged a pan of sigh-inducing, soul-satisfying lasagna, with layers of woodsy sage and butternut squash, creamy ricotta and tender pasta, its top edges dusted in Parmesan and crisped in a warm oven. This is deeply savory comfort food of the highest order, with an autumnal flavor that tastes just right on a crisp fall evening. I’d serve it with a salad of arugula or dandelion greens, something peppery and green to offset the richness, though it’s miles less heavy than a traditional meat-based lasagna. (The sweet-earthy notes from my brussels sprouts slaw would be delish alongside, too, if you prefer to prep the whole meal ahead.) And if you’ve got vegetarians coming over for Thanksgiving, consider treating them very well this year.
Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, October 2008
- 4 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound ricotta cheese, whole-milk
- 1/2 C heavy cream
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
- Pinch nutmeg, freshly grated
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/3 C loosely packed fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/4 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
- no-boil or fresh lasagna noodles
- 1 1/4 C finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 4 oz)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash, oil, and 1 teaspoon salt on a baking sheet. Season with pepper. Bake until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, cream, yolks, mozzarella, and a pinch of nutmeg. Season generously with salt.
Over medium high heat, melt the butter in a small saute pan. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add sage, and cook until slightly crisp at the edges, 3 to 4 minutes.
In a medium bowl, smash half of the squash with the back of a wooden spoon, leaving the other half in larger hunks. Gently stir in sage-butter mixture and stock. Season well with salt and pepper.
Spread 3/4 cup of ricotta mixture in a 9-cup baking dish. Top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1/2 of the butternut squash mixture over noodles. Top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of ricotta mixture over noodles. Repeat layering once more (noodles, squash, noodles, ricotta). Sprinkle Parmesan over ricotta mixture.
Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until the top is golden and bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Note: if you plan to freeze the lasagna before baking, use a generous hand in seasoning; the freezer tends to flatten salt’s flavor. I split the batch between two smaller pans. Wrap well and bake from frozen, adding to your baking time.