Kabocha Squash Lasagna

Isn’t it pretty? I won’t lie. Lasagna is a lot of work.  It’s also one of those foods I ate in Italy that changed my feelings about what it could and should be. The best lasagna has very thin, fluffy layers of pasta and minimal filling. Lasagna all’Emiliana is the classic, just bechamel and ragu, but I’ve had some pretty amazing vegetarian varieties with asparagus, spinach and stinging nettles. I made this for a get-together of friends, the night before Halloween. 

One of the guests was a vegetarian and I wanted to do something filling and seasonally appropriate. We eyed the squash at the grand army plaza farmer’s market in Brooklyn among a pile of other squash varieties.  We chose it for it’s sweetness. Purchased some fresh spinach lasagna sheets and began to assemble.  I was super worried about this one coming out ok, after boiling the pasta sheets about 10 minutes, they were still chewy and thick. But all focus on knit-picking about it was shifted when our garlic bread caught on fire in the oven.  My co-host, luckily, had a fire extinguisher and got the fire out, but not without coating the oven and about 1/3 of the kitchen with sodium bicarbonate.  Fortunately, after the apartment was aired out, the lasagna was a great success, this recipe was asked for repeatedly,  and we consumed the whole thing.

Kabocha Squash Lasagna

servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt
  • 1-2 Kabocha squash
  • 1 bunch sage leaves
  • 18 oz spinach lasagna (fresh or dried)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan

Preparation

Cut up kabocha into wedges and roast at 400 for 45 minutes or until tender.  When completely cooked, remove skins and mash. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, chop sage leaves and add to butter, plus a pinch of salt, and let sizzle for a minute in the butter. Add the melted butter and crispy sage leaves to the squash and mash as though one were making mashed potatoes. Add 1/4 cup of grated cheese.

To make the bechamel, melt 5 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Add 4 tablespoons of flour and stir to incorporate. Heat and stir for about 5-7 minutes until light brown. Meanwhile heat the milk in a separate saucepan. On the verge of a boil, remove the milk and add one cup at a time while stirring. Cook the mixture for another 10 minutes or so until the boil, and it thickens. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.

To assemble, boil the lasagna sheets about 10 minutes and drain.  Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a large baking dish. Add 1/5  of of the squash mixture, a layer of lasagna, bechamel, sprinkle parmesan, pumpkin and repeat until there are five layers of pasta. Add the rest of the bechamel on top, and a generous coat of parmesan. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

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