Of all the winter squashes, butternut is my favorite. And not for its rich, creamy flavor alone—its pretty fall color, dense, smooth texture, and relative ease of preparation (not as hard an exterior as, say, acorn squash) make it outshine the others.
Gigi had grown quite a bit of butternut in her Wedgewood Urban Gardens, so we wanted to feature it in a special way at our community pot luck last week. She had bundles of leeks waiting to be pulled from the garden, too.
We LOVE leeks, and so I created this lasagna variation to include them. The leek and butternut union became the big hit at our dinner.
What made it unique was the layering of these three components:
roasted butternut squash puree
stewed or roasted yellow tomatoes
What made it simpler was the “no-bake” lasagna that I used. If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be surprised. It really works well, and is not as heavy as the typical thicker, ripple-edged pasta that we all have used many times.
One less pot to deal with, no big wads of broad noodles clumped together, a whole step eliminated!
Both the butternut puree and the bechamel have an earthy sweetness. The yellow tomatoes add a bright, citrusy-acid note in the middle. If you don’t have these, no worries. The dish is still very good without them.
I grated some sharp pecorino-romano over the several layers. If you like, you can garnish the top with some walnuts.
Like most lasagnas, it is not difficult to make–but there are two main steps involved before you can assemble the layers.
Roasted Butternut Squash
2 Butternut Squash–medium size
Salt and Black Pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butternuts in half. Scoop out seeds. Brush both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place skin side up onto a baking pan and roast uncovered for 30-40 minutes. The outside skin will brown and blister slightly, and the whole squash will soften and collapse. When this occurs, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
When cooled, the skin will peel away from the meat of the squash.
Where it doesn’t peel away, scoop out the meat with a spoon.
Place all roasted squash into a food processor fitted with the swivel blade and puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The mixture will be fairly thick and creamy. If it’s too thick (as in too difficult to spread with a spatula over lasagna) thin with a little half-and-half.
4 Leeks, cleaned well and chopped–use white and green parts
3 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Flour (all-purpose)
1 1/2 cups Half-and-Half
1 cup Ricotta
Salt and Black Pepper–to taste
In a 3 qt. saucepan, melt butter on medium heat and add leeks. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until leeks soften and separate.
Sprinkle in flour, and stir rapidly, so that the leeks are well coated. When the flour has absorbed all liquid/butter, and cooked onto the leeks, pour in the half-and-half. Keep stirring. Soon, the sauce will bubble and thicken. Add the ricotta and stir well. Season with salt and black pepper. The sauce will be rich tasting and somewhat sweet from the leeks.
1 box No Bake Lasagna
Butternut Squash Puree
1 cup cooked Yellow Tomatoes
1 handful fresh Sage leaves, chopped
Pecorino-Romano cheese to grate
Lightly coat a 9×13 deep-dish style baking pan or casserole with olive oil. Then, cover the bottom of the casserole with a layer of leek bechamel. Place lasagna on top. Spread a layer of butternut over that. Sprinkle chopped sage over the butternut, and spoon over with bechamel. Add your 2nd lasagna layer, then the yellow tomatoes. Grate some pecorino-romano over the tomatoes, dot with bechamel and add 3rd lasagna layer. Spread butternut over the lasagna, sprinkle with chopped sage, and cover with 4th (and final) lasagna. Cover the top with remaining bechamel. Grate romano over the top.
At this point, you can refrigerate it and bake it the next day, if you like. Otherwise, seal with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (This helps the casserole to steam up as it bakes, cooking the pasta.) Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. Serves 8-10 generously.