Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Lasagna
My husband follows the blog of Chris Sacca, “a venture investor, company advisor and adventure junkie” in California. He happened to tweet that he made some pumpkin lasagna for dinner and his friends requested the recipe, which prompted him to write a blog post about how he created the dish.
I appreciated his approach for relating a recipe for which there was no written recipe. One of the most challenging things (for me) about this blog is that I generally don’t cook with a recipe if I’m cooking from the heart/mind/motor memory, etc. If I’m not following a recipe I have open in an app, magazine, cookbook or blog, I have to measure and write as I’m going along in order to do a post. It can be cumbersome, but I am finding the challenge and warm response worth it!
With that said, I was cool with Chris’ recipe/meal guidelines, but knew I’d need to save it for a Saturday conquest. Okay, don’t be scared, but…printed, single-spaced, with extended margins, it is three pages. Now, that didn’t intimidate me, but the lack of proportions on such a long recipe almost did. Fortunately for us, I have extensive experience with family chefs not writing down measurements (only ingredients lists) in their recipes.
Lucky for you, I wrote out my version of this decadent fall dish! Here it is:
Warning: there are a number of “abouts” or estimations on the proportions. I worked hard to note how much of each ingredient I used, but it’s truly one of those “a little more of this, a little less of that” recipes. You have to just judge it as you’re making it, but I promise, there are no wrong answers here. It will tell you what it needs!
Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Lasagna
2 small pie pumpkins (I used actual pumpkins, but go for a few cans of unsweetened cans of pumpkin puree if you please. It will save some time!)
2 small or 1 large butternut squash
2 small red onions, diced
2 shallots, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
~12 oz. fresh whole spinach leaves
4-5 sprigs of chives
1 tbsp. sage
~1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~1/2 c. olive oil
~6 tbsp. butter
~2 c. heavy cream and ~1/2 c. milk
32 oz. ricotta cheese
8-12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz. Asiago cheese, shredded
~1/2 c. grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese
~1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. apple cider
1 (12.5 oz.) package fresh pasta sheets for lasagna (Tip: Wegmans has a wonderful semolina version in their fresh pasta section, which was located in the refrigerated cheese and dairy product section of my location.)
- Cut the pumpkin and butternut squash into bite size pieces, roughly 2″ by 2″, removing the skin. Tip: If your pumpkin skin is super hard like mine was, just cut the bad boy in half and stick it on a sheet pan as is; scoop out the insides after, when it’s cool enough to handle.
- Toss the chunks in a little olive oil and ~1/4 of the apple cider; season with salt and pepper.
- Spread pieces evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 30-35 mins. at 400°F.
- Add some olive oil and a couple tbsp. butter to a large skillet; add all the chopped onion, 3/4 of each of shallots and minced garlic. Stir over medium-high heat until softened and slightly caramelized. Remove from pan and set aside in a bowl.
- Using the same pan, add the spinach. (Tip: the spinach will cook down quite a bit so don’t be worried you’re using too much!) Toss until softened it; set aside in a bowl.
- Pour 2/3 of the roasted pumpkin and squash chunks into a blender or food processor; blend until it has a smooth and soft texture, but still maintains some thickness.
- Into the puree, add 2/3 of the onion/shallot/garlic mixture and puree until smooth. Remove from processor or blender and add to large bowl.
- Add 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and add the rest of the apple cider, ~1/4 c. Stir to combine.
- Chop pumpkin and squash pieces into smaller bits. These pieces are just to add a bit more texture to the puree; add them to the bowl. Add the remaining onions and shallots to the bowl. Stir to combine.
- Back in the pan, add some more olive oil, the rest of the butter, the remaining minced garlic and diced shallots. Stir until the garlic and shallots are soft.
- Pour cream into the pan, stirring vigorously. Add half of the milk. Using a sifter, add flour to thicken the sauce.
- While the sauce is simmering, add diced chives and sage; add the remaining nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Simmer until the consistency becomes thicker.
- Spray or butter a lasagna appropriate cooking pan.
- Add the ricotta cheese to a mixing bowl. Crack a fresh egg into the cheese and stir it around; then add a few tbsp. of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a little handful of the shredded mozzarella. Stir to combine and set aside.
- Cover the bottom of the pan with sauce, spreading evenly. Sprinkle some of the mozzarella, asiago and parm on top of the sauce.
- Lay down a few pasta sheets to create the base layer. Using a spoon, a spatula and your fingers (yes, this is required!), spread the first layer of pumpkin/squash mixture. Be sure to get into those corners and everything in between.
- Add ricotta cheese across all of this. Then add some sprinkles of each cheese, followed by spinach, plus some of the onion/garlic/shallot mixture. To complete the series, add some more of each shredded/grated cheese.
- Add another pasta layer, then cover with more sauce and cheese. Followed by another series of layers of all the same things as above.
- Repeat until all your ingredients are used besides some extra mozzarella, asiago and parm cheese (you’ll probably have 2-4 layers, depending on the size of your pan). You need to end with the top layer being pasta; finish with a final lather of the sauce, and a hearty amount of cheeses.
- Spray a piece of foil with butter or oil or some sort of non-stick spray and use that as the inside cover when you wrap your pan before putting it in the oven.
- Bake at 400-450°F for 30-35 mins. After that, remove the foil. Bake for another 10-15 mins. to let the top brown. (Tip: I actually put the very last 5 mins. on broil and kept a close eye on it so it wouldn’t burn, but it created lovely crispy cheese covered edges.)
- Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 mins. When ready to serve, cut with a sharp knife, then remove each piece with a large spatula.
This lasagna was beautiful and everyone loved its fall flavors. You’ll see my mom is in some of the photos — she and my dad, along with my brother and his girlfriend, were our guests that night. She jumped in the kitchen to help me as I was finishing up the layers, and it was great to have another set of hands during that part. Working on each layer, we knew it would be delicious. Once we were eating it, we felt treated to how it managed to be a combination of rich and refreshing.
I’m not going to argue that this dish could be classified as light, but I fully anticipated (and welcomed, don’t get me wrong) a heavy, warm, thick concoction. However, it was even more delightful to bite into a piece, then another, then another, and not feel like it was going to give me a bellyache if I reached for another half a piece. (These were some huge pieces we cut too!) And you can taste the gorgeous veggies — the squash and spinach and all.
In other words, it is worth every bite. Doesn’t this sound like an autumn dinner calling your name? Make this for a crowd — enjoy it and all the praise it will get!