The Yiddish expression, “bashert” or “beshert” (transliteration) means destiny or pre-ordained. While its modern usage is typically in the context of romance or matchmaking and finding one’s soulmate, it’s the perfect description of how this three cheese butternut squash lasagna came to be.
First, Whole Foods invited me to be part of a celebration of a Parmigiano Reggiano. They asked me to use this fabulous cheese in a recipe and blog about it. As part of this celebration, Whole Foods is also providing a $50 Gift Card to one lucky reader, so check at the bottom of this post for details on how to enter this giveaway.
I love Reggiano and regularly buy it, so this was a great opportunity. But how to choose my dish? Too many choices left me momentarily at a loss.
Then, I saw Kirsten Madaus’s butternut squash and spinach lasagna, which inspired me to head in that direction. As luck (or fate) would have it, I had a butternut squash on my kitchen counter, spinach in the refrigerator, grated mozzarella from a homemade pizza extravaganza, and leftover fresh lasagna noodles from a previous lasagna. Why I have so much food around is a whole other story, but needless to say, I don’t like to waste anything. So three-cheese butternut squash lasagna with spinach it would be!
But first, a note about Reggiano. If you’ve never had it, you are in for a treat. There are many types of parmesan or parmigiano cheese, but only those made in five Italian provinces can be called Reggiano. It is more crumbly than most other parmesan cheeses I have tried and incredibly flavorful. I save the rind to use in soup (especially minestrone and ribollita) for an extra flavor boost. While I grate it for lasagna, I also love it shaved over salad or on grilled bread.
Three-Cheese Vegetarian Lasagna
Servings – 8-10 Cost – $15-20 (about $2 per serving)
- Approximately 48 ounces of pasta sauce (homemade or store-bought) – I prefer a light sauce, without too much salt or heavy seasoning.
- 1 medium butternut squash (approximately 2 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced into pieces about 1/4 –inch thick
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 ounces (approximately 5 cups) fresh baby spinach
- 1 teaspoon dried basil (optional)
- 3 cups (24 ounces) ricotta cheese (homemade or store-bought)
- 1 egg
- 12 ounces (approximately 3 cups) grated mozzarella cheese
- 4 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
- 1 package fresh or no-boil lasagna noodles
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Baking sheet
- Pastry brush
- Ramekin or tiny bowl (for olive oil)
- 9 x 13 inch pan
- Pot with cover or microwave container for cooking spinach
- Large spoon
- Immersion blender
- Measuring cups (or scale to weigh ingredients)
- 4 bowls (one each for sauce, spinach, ricotta and egg mixture, and parmesan Reggiano)
- Fork or knife for spreading ricotta
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly brush the butternut squash slices with olive oil and roast them for about 20-30 minutes, turning them over halfway through. When they are browned and soft, set aside and turn off oven.
- Mix the ricotta cheese, egg, a sprinkling of salt and a few turns of freshly ground pepper.
- Steam or microwave the spinach just until it is barely cooked. I rinse the spinach with cold water, then drain off the water and steam it in a covered pot for a few minutes under a low light. The water left on the leaves is all that is needed. Alternatively, microwave the spinach in a closed container (with vent hole) for about 1 minute or 90 seconds, stirring and then letting it sit for another 2-3 minutes to continue cooking. Add half the ricotta and egg mixture to the spinach, plus the optional dried basil and blend. Set the spinach/ricotta mixture aside.
- Pour about 2 generous ladles of sauce into the pan and spread it around.
- Then layer the rest of the ingredients in the following order:
- Strips of pasta,
- A few mores ladles of sauce spread over the pasta,
- Roasted squash pieces placed over the sauce
- Mozzarella tossed over the squash
- Parmesan Reggiano sprinkled on the mozzarella and the squash
- Spinach/ricotta mixture dotted and then gently spread over the mozzarella/Reggiano
- Ricotta dotted and gently spread over the spinach/ricotta mixture
- Repeat, ending with mozzarella/Reggiano
Note: Don’t crowd the pasta strips, leave room on the ends and sides of the pan. The fresh pasta I bought at Whole Foods – a local brand called La Pasta, fit beautifully. I cut the strips in half width-wise with a scissor. If you use no-boil, just break the pieces.
- Cover the lasagna with foil and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. This resting period is necessary to give the lasagna noodles time to soak up the sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the lasagna, covered, for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and lower the heat to 350 degrees F. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until the lasagna is bubbling. Let it sit for 5-8 minutes before cutting it into pieces. Serve with additional sauce and Reggiano on the side.
Whole Foods provided me with a $50 gift card to buy groceries and is also providing the gift card offered in the Giveaway. As always, the post and all opinions contained in it are my own.