The Best Lasagna You’ll Ever Make… No. Really.

Butternut Squash Lasanga

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Oh dear. There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t make this lasagna.

For one, this is a pretty time-consuming dish. This is not a meal that you attempt when your husband is coming home in 30 minutes and you forgot to defrost the chicken. (ahem. Kristin.) Two, it’s not the cheapest dish to make. I generally have to get a new quart of milk, a big bag of mozzarella, and a load of basil to make this. Three, in the grand tradition of lasagna, this is not diet-friendly food. It’s full of bechamel and melted mozzarella and crispy Parmigiano-Reggiano and…

Wait. What were we talking about? I had to make a quick trip to the fridge for, um, a drink of water. Certainly not four bites of leftover lasagna.

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Butternut Squash

This squash is crying… probably because it knows I’m going to nom it.

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Anyways. Let’s discuss why you should go out and spend the money to make this RIGHT NOW. One, see #3 above. Two, it’s fall and you can totally rationalize making this because, hello, it uses squash – totes in season. Yay for local food! Three, it’s a Giada di Laurentiis recipe, so if you’re male, you can use this opportunity to watch videos of her in low-cut shirts. (Side note: try googling “Giada” and see what the 3rd drop down choice is. Go ahead, I dare you. Her marketing department is ridiculous.)

Speaking of Giada, my aversion to her rivals my aversion of Sandra Lee. Really, Giada? Really?! You have great recipes, an amazing cooking background, and you’re BFFs with Mario Batali! Yet you parade around on TV in heavy eye makeup and skimpy t-shirts while making tuna tomato sauce. And even worse, all of your dishes are bordering on Paula Deen Calorie Counts – it’s a heavy-cream-and-extra-cheese-fest up in your kitchen. Unless every calorie of cheese migrates directly to your boobs instead of to your thighs, I’m thoroughly convinced that you spit out every bite you eat on camera, instead of eating even half a portion, as your show would imply.

Ahem. Back to the Squashapalooza going on in my kitchen.

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Squash Overload

Squash. I haz it.

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My favorite cheap grocery store, Sunflower Market, had squash on sale for 49 cents per pound this past week… so I bought 4 butternut, 1 kabocha, and 2 acorn… duh. I love a good sale, even when the sale is on squash, and not cute Anthropologie dresses. And then of course, I went to Whole Foods, and they had squash on sale for $1.49 per pound, but totally different varieties… so I got a pumpkin, an orangetti, a red kuri, and 2 delicata.

Soooo I’ll be featuring squash in every recipe until I run out… which should be approximately April 2011.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

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Butternut Squash Lasagna with Basil Bechamel

Adapted from Giada di Laurentiis

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Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 winter squash (at least 2-3 pounds total)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups skim or 2% milk
a pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups part-skim shredded mozzarella
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

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Preparing the squash:
Peel the squash using a sharp knife. (You can alternatively use a vegetable peeler, but I find that a knife is quicker.) Pitch seeds, or set aside to roast at a later date. Cut the squash into 1/2 inch cubes, toss with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add squash to pan, and cook over medium-high heat until squash starts to caramelize at the edges, about 5 minutes.

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Caramelized Butternut Squash

Once the squash starts to caramelize, add 3/4 cup water and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

If you have the time (or have the ability to plan ahead, a quality I do not possess) you could roast the squash instead of cooking on the stove. Roasting the squash would really enhance the flavor of the dish, and would be pretty hands-off. Cube the squash as mentioned above, season with salt and pepper and toss with olive oil, and roast at 400 degrees until cooked through.

Transfer cooked squash to a food processor and pulse until smooth. If you have a small food processor, you may want to do this in two batches.

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Making the Bechamel:
Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Once the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk for approximately 1 minute, or until the butter and flour are incorporated and the raw flour smell is gone. Gradually whisk in the milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the nutmeg. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender, and add the basil. Blend basil and bechamel until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the rest of the bechamel in the saucepan and stir to incorporate. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: When blending hot liquids, always make sure that you crack the lid of the blender while blending, otherwise your hot liquid will explode all over you… ouch. And not quite as much fun as margaritas all over you.

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Making a Bechamel - Whisking in the Milk

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Assembly:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put a layer of bechamel in the bottom of the pan, and cover with 1 layer of noodles. Spread squash puree over the noodles, and sprinkle with cheese. Repeat sauce, noodles, squash, cheese 3 more times. (Note: You can stop here, cover with foil, and freeze for up to a month if you prefer.)

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Butternut Squash Lasagna

Nom.

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Tightly cover lasagna with foil and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, sprinkle on the parmigianno-reggiano and remove the foil; allow to cook for an additional 15 minutes uncovered, until the top of the lasagna is golden brown. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serves eight as a main course.

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Playing in the Kitchenette: Blind Pilot / One Red Thread – I heart these guys. The lilting voice, the almost-bluegrass-inspired guitar… it’s delightful. (And they’re coming to Denver!)

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10 thoughts on “The Best Lasagna You’ll Ever Make… No. Really.

  1. You mean Giada cooks? Huh. All this time, I’ve been trying to figure out what she was doing for half an hour every day.

    Looks great!

  2. I, too hit a sweet squash sale — I ended up coming home with 16 lbs of squash at just .25/lb! I have never had squash in lasagna, and it is now my goal in life to come up with a good enough excuse to make this. It would be super difficult to not over-indulge! Ooh this might be a good way to upstage the meat eaters at Thanksgiving dinner.. hmmm..

    Keep those squash recipes coming, after all, my 16 lbs of squashes aren’t going to find recipes for themselves.

    Oh, and I posted about a butternut squash soup that is my new favorite soup and new favorite use for butternut squash. And I can brag about it like this because it isn’t my original recipe. If you’re into spicy, I highly recommend it!

  3. Um, you totes forgot to mention that we discovered this lasagna together in your tiny grad school kitchen. Possibly the same evening as the disaster that was our attempt at Lemon Drop Martinis.

    Also, I was thinking about making this this week, but went with portobello lasagna instead.

  4. I resent that! Not really, its totally true. I promised a full fledged chicken dinna, and never took the chicken out of the freeze. Probably because I was too busy MOLDING THE LIVES OF OUR CHILDREN THROUGH INTERACTIVE PLAY….what?

    Anyway, this looks amazing. And the word Bechamel is one of my favorites, as you are one of my favorites :)

  5. Ooohhh totally gonna make this! Still laughing about your Giada comments. I agree!! My husband however will sit and watch her entire show…hmmm he claims he likes her cooking (aka her cleavage) lol

  6. Pingback: Top Ten Popular Recipes from 2009 « The Kitchenette

  7. This looks delicious! Do you think I could make 3 days prior to a dinner party, refrigerate, and then bake the day of the event? I don’t have room in the freezer….

    • Wendy – absolutely! It reheats wonderfully, both out of the fridge and the freezer, if you’re so inclined. Just keep the foil until it’s hot all the way through, before you try to brown the top or anything. Have fun and thanks for stopping by!

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