Nothing goes to waste in our house – not even the kitchen waste from fruit and vegetable peelings and seeds that my husband buries in the soil to add nutrients and reduce our garbage imprint. As a consequence, tiny seedlings occasionally burst through the dirt in our garden and are ignored long enough that they become sturdy little plants. In this case, the little seedlings emerged unintentionally from a batch of vegetable trimmings that were composted under the soil earlier this year. By the time we noticed them, we had already allocated all the space in our vegetable garden to other plants. So we transferred the little fledglings to a spot in the front yard near the air conditioner and yew bushes.
By midsummer, the little plants that we initially thought were zucchini were sprawled all along the ground and clambered up the yew bushes, their tendrils and vines wending their way from one shrub to another. Before we knew it, we noticed what appeared to be butternut squash babies hanging amid the branches of the yew bushes. What started as seeds in our kitchen vegetable waste bin developed into at least five or six healthy, hearty butternut squash! Now we were ready to go full cycle again and take the squash back to the kitchen.
I had already been thinking of making a butternut squash lasagna, and when I saw Marie’s version on Proud Italian Cook, that just sealed the deal. I changed a few things in mine, like adding the sausage, but loved her idea of roasting garlic and letting it steep in the béchamel sauce along with a sprig of sage. You could easily make this a vegetarian dish, however, by eliminating the sausage. It would still be “crazy good” as Marie says.
When you’re spending the time it takes to make this recipe, you might as well use the best quality ingredients you can find. That goes from the squash and the sausage to the lasagna noodles and the parmesan. Grate your own from a good chunk of parmigiano reggiano. Please don’t use those green cans purporting to be grated parmesan.
Since I was making homemade lasagna noodles, I prepared the dish in two stages.
The day before serving, I peeled the squash and cut it into slices about 1/2 inch thick, sprinkled them with salt, pepper and rosemary, and roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 1/2 hour.
After they were nicely cooked and caramelized, I stored them overnight in the fridge.
While the squash was roasting, I also roasted a whole clove of garlic, drizzled with some olive oil.
I also cooked the sausage a day ahead. I took the casings off some really good, organic sausage, then fried them and broke them up into bits. This sausage is made from locally raised, pastured pigs and has very little fat. It’s delicious and is sold at Whole Foods in the New Jersey/New York/Connecticut area under the name “Simply Grazin.”
The next day, I made the lasagna noodles. You can use store bought fresh lasagna noodles (Rana is a good brand) if you like and I’m sure it will be delicious, but once you’ve tried it with homemade lasagna noodles, it’s hard to go back. If you want to try it, use my pasta primer here.
I boiled the lasagna noodles. It took only one minute.While I prepared the ricotta mixture, I drained the lasagna noodles, draping them over the surface of the pot, and counter, making sure to keep some moisture under them so they wouldn’t stick to the pot.
Now layer in some cooked butternut squash.
Repeat the process until you have three layers of noodles. Finish with a layer of béchamel and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. You can add more layers of pasta and filling if you like, but be sure to increase the amounts for the béchamel and the filling too.
Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 3/4 hour or until golden brown on the top. You can pre-make everything and store it in the refrigerator overnight. In that case, make sure you remove it from the fridge ahead of time and let it come to room temperature. If not, you’ll need extra baking time in the oven to heat it through. It should look bubbly and golden on the top when it’s ready.
Here’s my recipe:
Butternut Squash and Sausage Lasagna
Homemade lasagna noodles or store-bought
1 medium butternut squash, sliced and roasted
1 1/2 pounds sausage, sautéed and cut into pieces
2 cups ricotta
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup minced parsley
Mix all the above ingredients together in a bowl.
3 T. butter
2 T. flour
3 1/2 cups milk - I only had skim milk so I added:
1/2 cup cream
(or 4 cups whole milk)
salt, white pepper to taste
a few grinds of freshly ground nutmeg
a small bunch of sage
a few roasted garlic cloves
parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top and in between layers
Mix all the ingredients for the ricotta filling. For the béchamel, melt the butter in a pan and add the flour, stirring a couple of minutes at medium heat to cook the flour. Add the milk and cream a little at a time, stirring all the while. (It’s best if you heat the milk first but I forgot to do this step and it was still ok. ) Use a whisk to break up any lumps. Add the sage leaf and some of the roasted garlic cloves. Season the béchamel with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens somewhat. You don’t want it super-thick like mayonnaise but you don’t want it to be as thin as milk either. Remove the garlic cloves and sage leaves.
Pour a little of béchamel on the bottom of the lasagna pan. Add a layer of the noodles, then spread some of the ricotta mixture over that, followed by some sausage and some squash. Pour a little béchamel over the squash and sprinkle a little parmesan. Add another layer of noodles, ricotta, sausage and squash, followed by a little béchamel sauce and parmesan. Finish with another layer of noodles, a generous covering of béchamel, then a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 3/4 hour or until golden brown on top.