Sunday, December 11, 2011

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna

This is a nice winter meal that was the perfect thing to have baking and smelling delicious while decorating the tree, and then to be enjoyed while admiring the twinkling lights.

I found this recipe over at Four Corners Foodies but made a few minor tweaks.

Squash filling:
1 butternut squash
1/4c almond milk
pinch nutmeg
pinch cinnamon
1/8c parmesan cheese

Spinach filling:
1 24oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 egg whites

Bechamel sauce:
4c almond milk (or regular milk)
4 tbsp butter (or butter substance of your choice)
4 tbsp flour
2 pinches nutmeg
pinch cayenne

1 package no-bake lasagna noodles (I used Barilla flat noodles)
2/3c bread crumbs
1/3c parmesan
2 tbsp olive oil
optional, about  3/4c mozzarella

The first thing to do is get the squash going- cut it in half, remove seeds, and rub a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg on it. Bake at 400 until it is very soft, probably about 45 min. Scoop out of the rind into a bowl. Mash the squash, stir in the almond milk and the parmesan. Taste it, it should be very moist and delicious- add more of whatever you think it needs. Remember that the béchamel will also have nutmeg so no need to go overboard on that. I did consider using canned pumpkin in this, and I think that might actually work if you don't want to spend the time roasting. If you do that, I'd recommend the larger sized can, because this was a pretty large amount of squash.

Thaw the spinach and really squeeze all the water out (one way is by putting it in a clean dish towel and squeezing). Mix well with the 2 egg whites and salt/pepper. You could leave the egg whites out, but they do help make it puffier.

Now, this was my first time making béchamel, which was convenient because just that morning we'd watched Top Chef where they had to make the four "mother sauces", of which this is one. At any rate, it turned out to be really easy, and also easy to vegan-ize, if you're into that kind of thing. Melt the butter, stir in the flour, and let it brown a little. In the meantime, heat up the milk so when you add it, it isn't cold. Gradually whisk into the flour mixture and add the nutmeg and cayenne. Bring it to a boil and let it cook for 10 minutes, being sure to stir a lot. Then you can set it aside.

Finally, it's time to assemble. Put a thin layer of sauce, then noodles, then spread with squash and drop spinach all over it. Keep going, I ended up with 3 layers of filling with a layer of noodles on the top. Pour any leftover sauce over the top. Then top with mozzarella, if you like, and then the breadcrumbs and parmesan, finally drizzle the olive oil on top.

This smelled amazing and looked BEAUTIFUL. It is also a really nice and hearty vegetarian main dish. You could make it vegan by making appropriate milk/butter choices, and eliminating the cheese (I'd add extra salt to make up for what is in the parmesan).

I served it with a really simple salad, and it was a delicious dinner!

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