I’m a lover of pasta. I like the taste, the texture and the fact that I can make it from scratch or buy it in a box. It’s one of those foods that I’ve eaten since the day of my birth and that I’ll be eating until the day I die – hopefully. The thing is, there are quite a few people in this world who have given up on this wonderful food. For whatever reason, there are fewer and fewer folks who choose to eat pasta. It’s totally understandable. Flour isn’t the first choice for many anymore.
That’s fine. It isn’t for everyone and for all those who used to enjoy lasagna but don’t want it anymore because of the large amount of pasta used, I’ve got the perfect surprise – a lasagna made from butternut squash instead of lasagna noodles. How cool is that? Talk about getting your vitamin A. Take a look at this:
One cup of butternut squash provides a whopping 437% percent of your vitamin A needs for the day, as well as 52% of vitamin C and 10% or more of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium and manganese. Source: MedicalNewsToday.
Recently, Laura has been surprising me with some pretty awesome recipes. She’s been scouring the web and a few cookbooks and has come up with what I think are magical foods. This recipe is the first of many to come. Just wait until you see the next two. They’re just as good.
Laura found this recipe on PureWow. If you aren’t aware, this is a really great website for all sorts of things. They talk about food, fashion, lifestyle and a bunch of other topics. Regarding this recipe, they decided to call it Squash Your Cravings: A Gluten-Free Lasagna That Turns Veggies into Pasta. That’s a good name because it’s very descriptive.
This isn’t a tough dish to put together. The only area that may take some time is the prepping of the squash. You need to first peel it and then slice it thinly into planks. Beyond that (which isn’t even that hard), you’ll need to make the cheese mixture and the onion and spinach mixture. It’s a three part dish that comes together as an extremely filling and satisfying dinner. Trust me, we ate this last night and we were stuffed. Good thing I doubled up on everything, because we now have dinner for the week. That’s the way I roll.
1 Large Butternut Squash, Peeled, Halved and Seeded
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Regular Olive Oil
1 Large Sweet Onion, Chopped
3 Teaspoons Garlic, Minced
2 Packages Frozen Chopped Spinach, Thawed
1 32-Ounce Container Ricotta Cheese
1 Teaspoon Dried Sage
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
Regular Table Salt
Ground Black Pepper
1 Cup Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded
According to the recipe, you may add additional ingredients if you wish. Toasted crushed walnuts are one of these ingredients and sauteed mushrooms are another. When I prepare this dish again, I’m going to get creative with things like this. If interested, you’d add these ingredients to the ricotta cheese layer.
Pre-Heat the Oven
Move one of the oven racks to the center position and then pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Also, grease a casserole dish with oil or butter.
Prep the Squash
The squash is probably the most important part of this entire recipe, so, with that in mind, you need to take special care of it. The first thing you’ll need to do is to trim both ends off of it. Then, completely peel it. After that, cut it in half length-wise and remove all the seeds.
When you’re finished with that, go ahead and cut the squash in half width-wise and then take the solid part and cut it into plants of about 1/8 inch thick. With the bottom hollow part, you can cut width-wise the same thickness. You’ll use all of the squash in this recipe. Place everything in a large bowl when finished. Basically, you’re making the lasagna noodles that you’ll use as layers in the casserole.
Cook the Squash
You aren’t actually “cooking” the squash in this step. You’re just softening it to give it a head start.
Fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water as well. When boiling, add a batch of sliced squash and cook for about 5 minutes. When finished, remove the squash from the water with a slotted spoon and place in a colander. Keep doing this until all the squash has been softened.
Prepare the Onion & Spinach Mix
Warm a large skillet over medium heat. Then, add 1 tablespoon of regular olive oil to the pan. When it’s to temperature, add the chopped onion and let cook for about 5 minutes until it’s soft. Stir during this time. When the onion is soft, add the minced garlic and the thawed and squeezed (to remove the liquid) spinach to the skillet as well. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. When done, turn the heat off.
Make the Ricotta Mixture
In a large bowl, add the ricotta, sage and nutmeg. Also add in 1 teaspoon of salt and one half teaspoon of black pepper. Mix well.
In your casserole dish, add a bottom layer of squash. Try to use a third of the squash because there will be three layers total. On top of the squash, add one third of the ricotta mixture and on top of that, add half of the onion and spinach mixture. This is what things should look like at this point:
Continue on with a duplicate of what you just put down. Finally, finish the top with the remaining squash and then the remaining ricotta cheese on top of that. Lastly, sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over everything and drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil over that.
This is one serious vegetarian lasagna. So serious, I made two of them. Check this out.
Cook the Lasagna
Place the casserole into the oven and let cook for about 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s finished when you see everything bubbling and the cheese turning golden brown.
When it’s done, remove the casserole from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before cutting into it.
The Final Lasagna
I tried to get a picture of the layers for you. The taste is sublime because the squash was cooked in salted water. That salt is infused into the vegetable. Also, with all the other flavors working together, this dish is a winner. Enjoy!