How do I know it’s really fall? Instead of tomatoes and corn, my local farm stand has several different varieties of squash on display next to the jack-o’-lantern pumpkins.
While I’m still trying to figure out what to do with a giant blue Hubbard squash I couldn’t resist buying (it was only $2), I had no problem turning a 3-pound white-skinned “Cream of the Crop” squash into a favorite autumnal dish — a luscious vegetarian lasagna.
Acorn squash lends itself to pasta because it has a sweet and creamy flesh that gets even sweeter when you roast it, and it pairs nicely with cheese. It’s also full of vitamin C, low in calories (offsetting the butter and cheese in the recipe) and includes fiber.
To make the filling, you can either puree the roasted squash like I did and then mix it with the ricotta or simply layer slices or chunks of the cooked vegetable on top of the noodles with cheese. If you don’t care for kale, substitute spinach or leave it out altogether. It’s also OK to use tomato sauce instead of bechamel and tuck cooked ground meat or sausage between the layers to make omnivores happy.
Using no-cook noodles cuts down on the mess and prep time, but you have to be careful to completely cover them in sauce or they’ll be crispy instead of tender.
Remember to always allow your lasagna sit for at least 10 minutes after pulling it out of the oven, no matter how good it looks. Or it will fall apart in a gloppy mess when you cut it.
Acorn squash and kale lasagna
1 medium acorn squash
1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk or part-skim)
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt, plus more for kale mixture
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped kale
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
15 no-boil lasagna noodles (from one box)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Halve the squash lengthwise, discard the seeds and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. (Alternatively, peel and cut the squash into chunks and roast until tender.) Let cool slightly, then scoop out flesh into a medium bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in the ricotta cheese.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
While the squash is roasting, make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it bubbles, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for 1 minute, until flour no longer smells raw.
Slowly add the milk along with nutmeg, salt and pepper, whisking constantly. Taste, and add more seasonings if it tastes bland.
Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in ½ cup of the grated Parmesan.
Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat, then add garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds (be careful not to burn it) then add the kale, sage and a pinch of salt. Cook until kale is softened, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Now, assemble the lasagna. Spread ½ cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch lasagna pan.
Lay 5 lasagna noodles on top. They will overlap slightly, and you will have to carefully break the fifth noodle so it fits in the end of the pan. Spread half the squash mixture on top of the noodles, then half of the kale mixture, followed by 1 cup of sauce. (You want to cover the noodles.) Sprinkle some grated Parmesan on top.
Repeat with a second layer of noodles, squash mixture, kale, sauce and grated Parmesan. Add a third layer of noodles and top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining grated Parmesan and 1 cup shredded Parmesan over top.
Bake on the center rack until bubbly and slightly browned on top, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, or the lasagna will fall apart when you cut it. The lasagna is delicious warm, but also is pretty good at room temperature.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.