Maybe it’s the cold weather that has me craving the sweetness of butternut squash. Or maybe I just saw someone else eat lasagna and decided I had to have it. Either way, I couldn’t get the idea for cheesy layers of noodle and squash out of my head for days before I finally broke down and made it for myself. I found the recipe that I used as my base on Italian Food Forever and it was a great start. I modified the recipe to suit my need for deeper, roasted flavors. Plus, I used more cheese than was strictly called for, but I don’t think anyone was complaining. Everyone in the house loved it and it has reheated well since.
This is the perfect compliment to some garlic bread or a warm autumn soup. Also as a side note, the sausage and squash element is mixed together as well as the bechamel sauce, so make them in two separate but large pots. I didn’t realize how much room so many pounds of squash and sausage took up, and you still need room to mix! Use a soup pot.
Butternut Squash and Sausage Lasagna
Adapted from Italian Food Forever
1 box oven bake lasagna noodles
For the Sauce:
8 Tablespoons (one stick) Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup All-purpose Flour
6 Cups Milk
Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
Salt And Pepper To Taste
For the Filling:
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
About 1 Pound Sweet Italian Sausage, Casing Removed
10 Fresh Sage Leaves, Chopped
5 Cups Diced Butternut Squash (About 1 Large Squash)
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
2 Clove Garlic, Minced
1.5 Cups Chicken Stock
Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper To Taste
4 Cups (1 Large Bag) Shredded Mozzarella
1 1/2 Cups Grated Parmesan or Asiago Mix Cheese
1. Several hours or the night before, peel and scoop out the butternut squash. Roast for 1 to 1.5 hours at 450 F or until squash is soft and lightly browned. Mash with a fork and transfer to a container.
2. To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat until it is melted and bubbling. Next, add the flour in small increments , whisking quickly with a whisk. Cook for a minute or two, until the roux starts to turn a yellow color. Slowly add the milk, whisking vigorously so it doesn’t clump. Simmer the sauce until it begins to thicken, stirring often. If you find that your sauce is not reducing, transfer it to a larger pot and continue to cook. The increased surface area will help to cook off some of the liquid.
3. For the squash and sausage mix, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot on medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook slowly for about 20 minutes. The onions should be taking on some yellow-light brown color but not be fully caramelized. Push the onions to one side and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the other side. Add the sausage and sage. Cook until the sausage is evenly browned and no pink is left, continually breaking up the sausage with a spoon or fork. Mine took about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the garlic to cook with the onions about halfway through cooking the sausage. Once done, add the mashed squash and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until the sauce has thickened a little, about 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste if necessary.
4. Preheat oven 375 F. Spoon about half a cup of the bechamel sauce in the bottom of a sprayed or buttered 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of oven-cook lasagna noodles. Reserve at least 1 cup of the bechamel sauce and 1 cup of cheese to the side. Then layer the lasagna by repeating layers of the squash, bechamel sauce, and cheese until the dish is filled ending with a top layer of noodles. Cover the top noodles with the remaining cheese and sauce, making sure to cover all the noodles. I like to squish my layers down a little to make sure that all the noodles are fully covered so that they will cook properly.
5. Bake covered in foil for 35 minutes. Then remove cover and continue to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is completely melted and the lasagna noodles have cooked through. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.