Like everyone at this time of year, I look forward to pumpkin everything…beer, lattes, cookies, muffins, trips pumpkin picking, carving jack o’lanterns and roasting seeds. I’ve developed an appreciation for fresh pumpkin in my pies, so I’ve been cooking up cheese pumpkins, pureeing and freezing for future recipes.
And since it’s Meatless Monday in our house and I didn’t feel like making our standard Mac and Cheese from a box (I told you my cooking skills were deteriorating) I thought this would be the perfect fall recipe to try. Zombiegirl declared last week that she liked butternut squash soup and Utah once told me she liked brown butter and sage ravioli, so hey, they were bound to like Serious Eats Extra Creamy Squash Lasagna, right?
I took an extra “normal” lasagna out of the freezer last night. Just. In. Case.y eternal clock is not on daylight savings time yet, so at 5 am I got up to make dinner.
And because my eternal clock is not in sync with Daylight Savings Time, I got up at 5 am to make dinner.
The Best Squash Lasagna
- 1 large kabocha squash or sugar pumpkin (about 2 1/2 pounds), quartered, seeds discarded
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided
- 2 crisp baking apples such as Golden Delicious, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves, plus 1/4 cup roughly torn leaves, divided
- 1 package no-boil lasagna noodles (15 noodles)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 12 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 325°F. Toss three squash quarters with 1 tablespoon olive oil and coat thoroughly using your hands. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a cast iron skillet or on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and roast until a knife meets no resistance when poked into the flesh around the stem, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Increase oven temperature to 400°F. ( I already had cheese pumpkin puree on hand so I figured a 2-1/2 pound pumpkin equals 2-1/2 cups of puree. That amount worked out fine. )
Scrape roasted squash flesh out into the work bowl of a food processor. Add egg, cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and half of nutmeg. Process until a completely smooth purée is formed. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. (I’m coming to realize that maybe my skill level in the kitchen is not completely my fault. If I had a kitchen and equipment like Rachel Ray [and her stupid garbage bowl], would I be a better cook? Would it matter if I processed stuff in stages in my tiny food processor instead of all in one go? Maybe, maybe not. Anyways, I used my immersion blender to puree this mixture. I tried to quietly blend since the rest of the house was asleep. Nearly impossible…)
While squashes are roasting in step 1, cut remaining squash quarter into 1/2-inch dice. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat, swirling until foaming subsides. Add diced squash and apple and cook, tossing and stirring frequently until tender and browned on most sides, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add minced sage. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. (Since I had pureed all my pumpkin, I didn’t have any to dice, so I double the amount of apples. I also ran out in my pajamas to my lawn garden to snip sage. Thankfully, it was dark. This step was my favorite. I was worried that the delicious smell of apples in butter would wake everyone up.)
Place lasagna noodles in a 9- by 13-inch casserole dish and cover with cold water. Set aside, agitating the noodles occasionally to make sure they aren’t sticking. (I didn’t do this step. Ronzoni no-bake noodles worked just fine.)
Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until butter has melted and garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour starts to smell nutty and is pale blond, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk in a thin, steady stream. Once milk is fully incorporated, bring to a boil, whisk vigorously, then remove from heat. Add 8 ounces of Gruyère cheese and whisk until completely smooth. If any lumps remain, blend with a hand blender or in a standing blender until smooth. Add remaining 1/8th teaspoon nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. (I think another one of my problems is I don’t prep beforehand. I should be getting everything out, measured, chopped and shredded before I even turn on the stove. I use a ton of dishes when I cook, so I would probably use twice as many if I prepared all the ingredients first. My dishwasher would quit on me if I did. So when it was time to shred the Gruyere, I didn’t anticipate the huge mess this soft cheese would make in my shredder. Should’ve prepped, could’ve burned everything if I didn’t chop it up quick.)
Remove lasagna noodles from baking dish and transfer to clean dish towels to blot excess moisture. (See, this would have ended up with another dirty dish. Nope.)
Spread 1/6th of the white sauce over the bottom of the baking dish and top with three lasagna noodles. Add 1/5 of squash puree and 1/4 of sautéed squash and apple mixture. Top with 1/6th of white sauce. Repeat with 3 more layers of noodles, squash puree, cooked squash mixture, and white sauce. At this stage, you should have used up all of the sautéed squash and still have 1/6th of the white sauce and 1/5th of the squash purée remaining. Place the final three noodles on top of the lasagna, top with the remaining purée, the remaining 4 ounces of shredded Gruyère, and drizzle with the remaining white sauce. Cover with aluminum foil, and transfer to the oven. (This all worked out well- it went together as stated and I didn’t end up with extra anything. I went back to bed for 20 minutes.)
Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for 5 minutes, slice, and serve (Zombiegirl threw all the lasagnas in the oven before I got home, so it was nice to have everything ready when I walk through the door. I took a Lactaid [did you see how much dairy is in this thing?] and we tried it. That was the deal- everyone had to try a small piece before they ate the “normal” lasagna. Zombiegirl’s friend Nathalia was eating over so we had another potential opinion. The kids were all a no, but MR had two helpings. I had mine and everyone else’s. No wonder I’m fat.)
It was good. I’m not a big fan of Gruyere- it has a funny aftertaste to me but the pumpkin mixture with the apples and noodles was really delicious. A nice fall treat.
Good thing I liked it, I’m going to be eating it for lunch the next six weeks.