Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
Butternut squash might be my most-anticipated of all the fall and winter produce. Possibly because I love the combination of sweet and savory flavors, but also because this vegetable is exceptionally versatile. Butternuts can be seamlessly integrated into countless classics for a seasonal twist; in lasagna, they can be swapped in for the traditional heavier meat sauce to create a lighter, vegetarian alternative. If you come across their smaller, sweeter counterpart, honeynut squash, that can be used, too.
For this recipe, the squash is first roasted with garlic and sage until it’s beginning to caramelize around the edges, highly aromatic and brimming with flavor. A potential time-saver is to buy the squash pre-diced. I’m rarely ever a proponent of purchasing pre-cut produce; I have less control, it’s more expensive and often involves more plastic packaging. But if you're not comfortable with your knife skills, don't have well-sharpened knives or just don't like wrestling to hold down a bulky squash, this is a case where it might be worth it.
To harmonize the squash with the rest of the dish, it’s blended into a silky purée that’s then folded with a bit of ricotta—enough to add richness and a delicate cheesiness, but not so much that it detracts from the precious flavor developed during the oven roast. The purée is then spread between layers of pasta, cheese and creamy béchamel sauce, capturing all the coziness of the traditional dish.
When it comes to the baking vessel, for the purpose of presentation, I opted for two ramekins that each held about two servings. But a standard 9-inch-by-13-inch rectangular baking pan or casserole dish works just as well, and it’s much easier to layer the pasta sheets, so I’d suggest that route.
For the wine pairing, I could see a fuller-bodied, herb-tinged white matching nicely, or even a sparkler for a refreshing palate lift. To play up the cozy vibes, though, I opted for a red. From the Italian island of Sardinia, Tenute Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2018 has enough freshness to complement the vegetarian dish and not overtake the nuances of the butternut squash flavor. Cannonau is the local name for Grenache, and the wine expresses the grape's classic raspberry, cherry and herb profile. With sage as a distinctly identifiable tasting note, this bottling makes a natural match for the savory components in the lasagna, with a slightly salty edge to cut the richness. As an added bonus, it’s pretty widely available at just $18, for an impressive 90 points.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
Pair with a lighter red wine that’s fresh and focused, such as Tenute Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2018 (90 points, $18).
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Approximate food costs: $30
- 1.5 to 2 pounds butternut squash, diced into 1-inch cubes
- 1 garlic clove, skin on
- 4 sage leaves
- 1-pound box of dried lasagna sheets
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1/4 cup ricotta
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. On a large baking sheet, toss the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add a garlic clove to the baking sheet and tuck in the sage leaves. (Do not overcrowd the squash; divide between two baking sheets if necessary.) Roast for 20 to 25 minutes until soft, with the edges starting to caramelize.
2. While the squash is cooking, in a tall, large pot, bring generously salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna sheets for 2 minutes less than the box instructions indicate, then drain and set aside. Toss with a tiny bit of olive oil to keep the sheets from sticking together.
3. Use the same pot to make the béchamel. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and let the mixture cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and let cook for 3 to 5 minutes more, until thickened. Add the grated Parmesan, season with salt to taste and set aside.
4. In a food processor (or a blender), blend ricotta for a few seconds until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Put the roasted squash, the sage leaves and the roasted garlic, squeezed out of its skin, into the food processor. Blend for about 1 minute until very smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of milk and blend to combine. Season with salt to taste, then add to the medium bowl with the whipped ricotta and fold together.
4. Cover the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole dish with an even layer of lasagna sheets. Generously covering each layer from edge to edge, spread on squash purée, top with a layer of mozzarella, then another layer of lasagna sheets, followed by the béchamel. Repeat until the dish is mostly full, ending on a layer of pasta, then top with more cheese.
5. Transfer to the oven and bake until the top is just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Remove and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serves 4-6.