Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna
Oh, the decadence. A lasagna that’s rich and creamy and sumptuous and savory and totally over the top. Is this a complete about-face from the light fare I shared with you last week? Absolutely. But I think you’ve earned it. We’ve been getting pummeled by snowstorm after snowstorm in the Northeast, so here’s permission to pull out the heavy comfort food artillery. Yes, this recipe is more involved than most, but that makes it a perfect project for a snowy day when you’re already cooped up inside. Consider it a luscious labor of love.
This tempting noodle casserole has layer upon layer of deliciousness. Tender roasted slices of sweet squash. Creamy fresh ricotta laced with fragrant sage and Parmesan. A velvety béchamel sauce (it’s easy–don’t panic!) that’s infused with more sage, which is essential here. Molten mozzarella that will melt your heart. A cozy course to cure your cabin fever. I’ll take you through it one layer at a time.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and seed the squash; cut crosswise into thin slices.
Lay squash slices on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in oven for 20 to 25 minutes until tender.
I know béchamel sounds like a fancy, fussy French sauce, but it’s pretty easy to tackle and a great technique to have on hand. The formula is simple: equal parts of butter and flour whisk together to form a roux and then milk is slowly added until the sauce is bubbly and thick. To add a special twist to the sauce, I’ve infused the milk with fragrant sage, integral to this dish. Just pour milk in a saucepan, add a large sprig of sage and slowly bring to a simmer.
In a large sauté pan, melt butter pieces over medium heat.
Slowly add the flour, whisking all the while. A flat whisk is ideal for this purpose, if you have one. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Be careful not to let the flour brown.
Remove sage sprig and gradually add warm milk to the roux, whisking to incorporate and to prevent lumps from forming. Continue whisking and cook until thick and bubbling, 5 to 8 minutes more.
Season with kosher salt and nutmeg and remove from heat.
Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add a small handful of sea salt: the better seasoned your water, the better seasoned your pasta. Add lasagna noodles and stir well; cook a minute or two less than package directions. The noodles should be very al dente because they will continue to cook in the casserole. Drain noodles well.
It’s important to use delicate homemade ricotta (here’s my recipe) because this dish deserves it. I know it’s an added step, but it’s an easy one. You could substitute store bought ricotta, but buy the freshly made variety instead of packaged, if you can. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta with egg yolks, chopped sage, and grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning with kosher salt, if needed.
Reduce oven to 375 degrees. Assemble the lasagna: coat the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish with béchamel and top with a layer of noodles.
Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles.
Top with roasted butternut squash slices.
Spoon béchamel over squash and sprinkle with crumbled mozzarella.
Continue layers to fill the dish—3 or 4 layers should do it. Finish with mozzarella and top with sage leaves to garnish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, rotate dish and bake for 15 minutes more until top is golden brown.
Remove casserole from oven. Let rest for 10 minutes before diving in.
1 – 3 1/2 pound butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups whole milk
large sprig of sage
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound lasagna noodles
2 cups ricotta cheese (preferably homemade or fresh)
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup chopped sage, plus sage leaves for garnish
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, crumbled or grated (about 2 cups)