Butternut Squash Lasagna


It’s a misnomer that butternut squash are just a Winter vegetable. Here in Middle Tennessee we have big beautiful squash year long… especially if you get them from your local Farmer’s Market. Granted, there’s a larger abundance of them in the Winter – but you can still easily find them now.

This recipe is made with a butternut squash puree and a nutmeg & basil rue. Sound a little complicated? Only slightly… but the results are ridiculously tasty and you can make a large batch and freeze the remaining. I’ve also included sweet Italian sausage in in this but you can make it vegetarian-friendly if you prefer.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (usually found in links)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
3 amaretti cookies, crumbled (optional of you can’t find)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

The Rue

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender*. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the remaining sauce in the pan and stir to blend. This is your basil-nutmeg rue. Season the rue with salt and pepper, to taste.

The Squash Puree

Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds, then quarter if squash is large. Coat in olive oil and place flesh side down on cookie sheet. Roast on top rack of oven at 425ountil tender… roughly 45-50 minutes. Be sure to use a cookie tray with at least a 1/2 inch lip as squash will give off a lot of water.

When squash is done, scoop flesh from peel and put in food processor. Add crumbled amaretti cookies and a pinch of salt. Puree until smooth. TIP: When blending hot liquids – remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Ready To Cook?
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

*Saute and brown sausage in a skillet. Break up into 1/2″ pieces.  Drain and set aside.

Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of rue over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times. *Scatter sausage on second layer and cover with the mozzarella.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes then remove and uncover. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. To firm up, let the lasagna stand for at least 20 minutes before serving.

The Perfect Pairing

It’s a sultry summer – try your hand at making a sangria. Sangria’s come in all types and flavors – check out this great site filled with Sangria recipes.

The Perfect Health

Butternut squash is not just low in fat and calories, but these squash are high in Vitamins A & C and high in Potassium and dietary fiber. It’s also a great source for anti-oxidants and works toward heart and lung health. Read here for more details

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup


Fall just calls for soup… I’ve never really liked Butternut Squash soup – until a couple of years ago when I was in Calgary, Alberta.. Canada. And believe it or not it was in catering at the arena we were working in! But it was incredible, thick, flavorful… seasoned just perfectly! I ate it by the bowl, used it as a dip for bread and veggies. I couldn’t get enough of it! Normally, my complaint about butternut squash soup is that it’s too bland. Not enough flavor to keep me interested beyond a couple of spoonfuls.

So I’ve been on a mission the last couple of years – trying to perfect this soup. And I wanted to keep it purely vegetarian – not adding cream or chicken stock like many recipes call for… and I think I’ve finally done it. It’s a little labor intensive – but once you taste it you will certainly agree it’s worth all the effort. So make a huge batch, freeze some for later and enjoy it throughout the Fall season!

*A tip for using veggies in any soup – try roasting them before adding to the soup. It brings out their natural sweetness, the caramelized edges add an earthy nuttiness and will give your soup that wow factor.  Plus, your kids will be asking for seconds… on vegetables!

Ingredients
extra virgin olive oil
2 medium sweet onions, chopped
1 large fennel bulb (cut off “fern”)
3 large butternut squash
1 large red bell pepper
2 tablespoons roasted garlic
2 cups white wine
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
32oz *garlic veggie broth

*Vegetable Garlic Broth
this broth will make ALL the difference in your soups… and you can make as much or as little as you like!  I prefer to make the largest batch I can manage so I can freeze small containers worth and have this ready to add to any soup, any time. This recipe is based off of 2.5 quarts. (More recipes to come using this tasty broth!)

2.5 qts vegetable stock preferably from scratch but try to use organic if purchasing cans or boxes of broth (it’s roughly six 14oz cans).
4-5 tablespoons (heaping) coursely diced garlic (roughly 2 bulbs)
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
3 pinches dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch salt

Add all ingredients to the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat… cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth or mesh strainer. Use immediately for soup or freeze in individual portions. TIP: freezing broth in ice cube trays allows you to use small portions at a time.


Place olive oil coated squash flesh side down on tray for roasting

Be sure to let the squash cool before scooping it out


This fresh garlic came from a friend’s garden – so yummy!


Adding roasted red bell pepper gives the soup extra flavor – these came straight from my garden!


Ready To Cook?

Pour generous amount of olive oil to cover bottom of a stock pot. Heat over low-medium heat. Add chopped onion. Cook until translucent. Clean fennel bulb and the fern (the fern is the top, finely-leafed portion of the fennel) under cold water and pat dry. Detach fern from stems, discarding stems (they can be pithy). Chop bulb, discarding tough outer layer. Add chopped fennel bulb to onion and continue to sauté over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Turn heat to medium, add 1 cup white wine to onion and fennel; cook until alcohol “burns off”, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

Seed and quarter red bell peppers and coat in olive oil… place on cookie sheet flesh side down and roast at 425o for 20 minutes or until skins have blistered and started to brown. The trick to removing skins from peppers is remove peppers from oven and immediately place in a bowl and cover with cellophane. Let sit for at least 15 minutes and then skins should peel off easily!

*Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds, then quarter if squash is large. *Coat in olive oil and place flesh side down on cookie sheet (*see photos above). Roast on top rack of oven at 425ountil tender… roughly 45-50 minutes. Be sure to use a cookie tray with at least a 1/2 inch lip as squash will give off a lot of water. Meanwhile, add vegetable/garlic broth to pot of onions and fennel. Cover and bring to a slow boil. Mince several sage leaves. Add to pot. Reduce to simmer.

When squash is done, scoop flesh from peel and add to pot. Add roasted bell pepper and remaining cup of wine.

Add cinnamon, cayenne pepper, curry powder and ginger powder.

Remove soup from heat and puree with hand mixer or immersion blender. Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to food processor for a smoother texture. Again, many recipes call for cream at this point to create that smoothness we all want in a bisque-type soup. But with a little extra work – you can eliminate the need for dairy products and get that creamy-smooth texture without the fat. For an even silkier texture… go one more step and work soup through a sieve with a spoon. I, for one, am completely okay with the texture of the soup without the extra step!

Garnish your bowl with the leftover fennel fern and enjoy!

The Perfect Bite

Soup is such a versatile dish. It can be a main course, an appetizer, a side dish, a snack… it’s’ your call. So the Perfect Bite really depends on what you’re having this with… but anytime… a big chunk of warm pumpernickel bread swirled and scooping up some of the sweet and savory goodness… is truly the perfect bite.

The Perfect Pairing

This is such a hearty soup that I hesitate to suggest any meal to compliment – other than what I suggested earlier – other than a big hunk of pumpernickel or whatever your favorite bread may be. But for something different in a beverage to enjoy try the 2008 Chateau St. Jean Gewurztraminer – this spicy flavorful grape is hard to pronounce but will be a perfect compliment to the rich earthy flavors of this butternut squash soup.

DId You Know?

Butternut squash is not just low in fat and calories, but winter squash are high in Vitamins A & C and high in Potassium and dietary fiber. It’s also a great source for anti-oxidants and works toward heart and lung health. Read here for more details.