Friday, September 28, 2012

Week 15: Butternut Squash Lasagna With Basil Bechamel

I had no intention of featuring two pasta dishes in a row, let alone two pasta dishes containing winter squash. But with a CSA, you cook what you have; and last week, I had two butternut squash and a sugar pumpkin sitting on the counter. I'm hardly making a dent in my supplies.

If you are not blessed with a squash (or two) of your own, it's worth getting one just for this lasagna. The basil adds a lot of flavor to the sauce, and gives it a pretty green color.

Butternut Squash Lasagna With Basil Bechamel
(Adapted from this Giada de Laurentiis recipe. Serves 8. You can prepare the squash puree ahead of time.)

Olive oil
1 butternut squash, about 3 pounds (or 3 cups prepared squash puree)
Salt and pepper to taste
4.5 Tbsp butter
4.5 Tbsp flour
4 cups whole milk
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan

Prepare squash: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush the cut surface lightly with olive oil and set the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet (foil-lined, if you like). Roast the squash for about 45 minutes, or until the flesh is soft (but not mush). Let the squash cool a bit, then scoop out the cooked flesh, discarding the peel. Place the cooked squash in a food processor and pulse several times to puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside. You should have 3 to 3-1/2 cups of puree.

Prepare bechamel: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk gradually. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer the sauce, whisking often, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. (This makes a thin white sauce.) Whisk in the nutmeg. Carefully transfer about half of the sauce to a blender and let it cool there for at least 5 minutes. Add the basil leaves on top, then blend until smooth. Return the basil bechamel to the sauce in the pan and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble and cook the lasagna: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup sauce on the bottom of the pan, then make three layers as follows, leaving space between the noodles (they expand considerably when they cook):

3 noodles
1/3 of the squash puree (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup basil bechamel

Place the final 3 noodles on top and spoon on the remaining bechamel. (You will probably have more sauce than you need.) Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining half-cup of  mozzarella cheese and all of the Parmesan. Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden. Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes before serving.

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