As a self-proclaimed comfort food connoisseur, I find it highly disturbing that I have never made one of the most classic comfort foods of all time: Lasagna.
How is this possible?
I blame others.
See, my Mom makes the most homey, yummy lasagna around. It’s chock full of savory tomato sauce and ground beef, and employs her secret technique of using cottage cheese instead of ricotta to make the creamy, cheesy filling even more decadent and delicious.
Well I guess that’s not so secret anymore, now is it?
If I’m not eating my Mom’s version, signore Ben is dishing up his ultimate, traditional lasagna packed with spicy marinara sauce, loads of mozzarella cheese and seasoned ground beef. This is Ben’s signature dish, if he does say so himself, which he routinely whips up and hand delivers to any friend, neighbor or family-member in need. (It’s really very sweet. )
I guess between enjoying the two of them, I’ve just never had the need to give layering sauce, pasta and cheese a go. Until today.
Today, on a chilly, rainy day off from work, I decided enough was enough, and combined smoky marinara sauce, hearty spinach, creamy cheese and sweet butternut squash to make an irresistible Italian, comfort food casserole:
Butternut Squash Lasagna!
What he said!
I figured if I was going to give lasagna a go – I was going to make it unique and out of the proverbial box. This recipe definitely fit the bill, and turned out fantastic!
My number one fear when thinking about making lasagna from scratch was not getting a clean cut and having the filling run out everywhere which, thank goodness, did not happen. That and it tasting like crap, which also did not happen.
Now I’m not going to lie – this lasagna took some work. No 30 minute or less meal here, but I think the end result was worth the time it took to put together.
Like a traditional lasagna recipe, marinara sauce, lasagna sheets and cheese filling are layered on top of one another.
What makes this meatless Butternut Squash Lasagna recipe extra special though is the addition of naturally sweet butternut squash, and a satisfying sautéed spinach filling that gave the dish staying power.
Homemade marinara sauce made extra flavorful by using roasted tomatoes lends a flavorful kick, and just when you think you can’t fit anything else into the dish…
a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese THAT SMELLED LIKE HEAVEN while baking, juuuuuust fits in on top.
60 minutes at 375!!!!
Check out those layah’s!
Butternut Squash Lasagna
Adapted from Cooking Light
1 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon water
6 no-boil lasagna sheets
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Non-stick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups onion, minced
up to 1/4 cup water
5 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese (1.5 ounces)
4 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
15oz part-skim ricotta cheese (or half ricotta/half plain Greek yogurt)
Marinara Sauce: (makes 3 cups total)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
1-14.5oz can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
1-14.5oz can crushed tomatoes
1. For the butternut squash: Place butternut squash in a microwave-safe bowl, add 1 Tablespoon water and microwave for 5-7 minutes, or until tender. Set aside.
2. For the spinach filling: Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and sauté onions until tender. If onions start to burn, add in water 1 Tablespoon at a time. Add spinach to the onions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Turn off heat and set aside.
3. For the cheese filling: Combine mozzarella, parsley, salt, pepper, egg and ricotta cheese in a bowl. Set aside.
4. For the marinara sauce: Heat extra virgin olive oil in a medium-size pot over medium heat. Add garlic, basil, parsley and oregano. Stir constantly for 30 seconds, then add in remaining sauce ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
5. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8×8 casserole with non-stick spray, then spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom. Add 2 lasagna sheets, then spread 1 cup cheese filling over the noodles.
6. Arrange squash over the cheese, then spread 3/4 cup sauce on top. (In the pictures I accidently separated the squash into two layers. Add all the squash in this layer instead!)
7. Add 2 lasagna sheets, then spread 1 cup cheese filling over the noodles.
8. Drain any excess moisture from the spinach filling, arrange over the cheese, then spread 3/4 cup sauce on top.
9. Add 2 lasagna sheets, then spread the remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cover with foil.
10. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for 30 more minutes. Allow lasagna to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Shortcuts and time saving tips:
1. Use frozen, pre-cut butternut squash
2. Use pre-made or jarred marinara sauce
3. Make this dish the night before and pop in the oven the next day.
Now back in the old days, I would have have done straight for the center piece of lasagna, but now that I’m older and more mature (debatable) I can appreciate the rare delicacy that is zee corner piece.
Oh yes. Crunchy, chewy crust on the outside, tender, cheesy goodness on the inside.
I will still fight for a middle cinnamon roll though. Don’t get it twisted.
On the side I served some freshly overcooked green beans.
And any good Italian dinner’s #1 sidekick: Parmesan Garlic Bread.
That’s just a slice of bread spread with butter, dusted with garlic powder and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, then broiled ’til golden brown. Gosh I love this stuff.
A meal fit for a comfort-food Queen! Definitely out of the norm for me in terms of time and effort it took to prepare, but I’m glad I gave lasagna making a go for the first time with this recipe. It was savory, sweet and oh-so cheesy.
For dessert I shall be enjoying another classic comfort food: a fun-size Twix bar a la Ben. Score! I don’t know where he acquires half the stuff he brings home from work for me – brrownies, boxes of dots (right, the candy), ice cream cake, and now twix, but I sure do appreciate it.
My favorite comfort food is:
a. Mac & Cheese
c. Mashed potatoes & gravy
d. Other, I’ll tell ya’ below!