Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Food: Butternut Squash Lasagna

After making a traditional lasagna last week, I still had a half tub of ricotta (and a half pan of lasagna) in my fridge.  I dove into my brain and came up with this recipe, which I'm planning to use as a side dish for the months to come.  After baking and cooling, I cut it up into portions and put it in the deep freeze.

If I remake this, I definitely have some tweeks to add, but I think as a first attempt I did pretty well. 
*Please note that I don't measure when I cook so all measurements are approximate.*

1 box of lasagna noodles
1 small butternut squash (approx. 1 lb.)
1 large yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic (med-large)
rubbed sage
1/4-1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1 1/2 lbs of ricotta cheese (I used part skim)
1 egg
olive oil

First, peel the butternut squash, cut off the stem end, cut in half long ways, and scoop out the innards.  Slice the squash into half-moons about 1/8 inch thick.  I used the slicer on my food processor, but you can also use a knife to slice if you have the patience.  Set that aside
 Then, dice up your onion and garlic, and put into a hot pan with some olive oil to saute/sweat for a few minutes.

I have an unconventional method to prepping my noodles.  I lay the noodles in a pan (this one is a little small for these noodles) and pour boiling water over the top.  It makes it easier to grab the noodles when you start layering, and you have a better view of the noodles you're working with (broken vs. whole).  After I pour the water on, I let them sit for 5-10 minutes to soften up and cool off a little bit.  Don't let them sit so long that they get mushy...then they get slippery and much harder to work with.
*Don't toss the water when they've softened.  You'll find out why in a bit.*

On to the filling:
I used about half of a 3 lb. container of part-skim ricotta cheese (roughly 1 1/2 lbs.), and added one egg and about a 1/2 cup of bread crumbs.  Depending on how wet your cheese is, you might need to add more or less.  I broke up the egg and stirred this mixture a bit before I add the onions and garlic, a pinch of salt, and close to 2 TBS of rubbed sage.  If you have crushed sage, that would work, too.

Mix well, and adjust seasoning and bread crumbs as necessary.  It shouldn't be a runny mixture, but like a loose paste so that it spreads easily.

Now to construct!
I used a deep casserole dish (8x8 I believe), but you can use a long pan, too provided you don't cook for quite as long.  I got 4 layers in this batch.

Step 1: line the bottom of the pan with the least broken pieces of noodles you have.  You may need to cut parts off to make them fit and that's okay.  The most important part is to have the most solid even bottom to this as possible.
Step 2: Spoon out a heaping spoonful onto each noodle and spread it out.  If you think you need a bit more, throw another spoonful in there.

Step 3: Layer out the squash over top.  This layer is a bit light on squash, and my future layers were much more orange.

Step 4: Take a ladle of water from your noodle's bath and pour it around the edges of this layer.  This will give your noodles more moisture to suck up as they cook, and also help steam the squash until it is tender.  If your squash looks a little dry, it wouldn't hurt to go with two ladles.

Repeat Step 1-3 until you get to the top of your pan or you run out of materials.

If I had it, I would have sprinkled some Peccorino cheese over the top of the last layer of squash and maybe even a bit of sage for color and make it look prettier.

Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for about 90 minutes.  If you use a flatter pan, start checking it at an hour for doneness.  The squash should be tender.  Let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.

*Note:  I forgot about this in the oven and cooked it almost two hours, and it still looks good!  It was a little dry, but still really great.

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