One of my favourite fall recipes is butternut squash lasagna. When I make this I tend to go all out, make very large portions and freeze it for emergency delicious meals when I get back from long, cold rides. Although this tends to be time-consuming, you can feed yourself for a week with this recipe. I like to call this is a casserole inspired by lasagna.
There are a lot of greens and vegetables in my recipe. I don’t use ricotta cheese and the meat sauce is “nice to have,” but it’s not a must. If you want to avoid meat altogether, just make yourself a Marcella Hazan red sauce to spread between the layers and enjoy the vegetarian version of this recipe. If you really love mozzarella cheese in your lasagna, omit some parmesan and add more mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella is best on the top. For an even lighter version, you can use light sour cream mixed with skim milk rather than crème fraîche, but the texture won’t be the same.
If you are like me and aren’t adverse to a little bacon, meat and crème fraîche now and again, read on but all the “do it yourself” steps in this lasagna are time consuming. Especially if you are making your own crème fraîche (which I recommend because it is stupidly expensive and hard to find and very, very easy to make). You will need to start two days ahead as the crème fraîche needs 48 hours. If you want to omit this step just buy a tub at the grocery store.
Baked Lasagna With Butternut Squash
Ingredients Crème Fraîche:
500 mL whipping cream (or half and half)
2 tablespoons buttermilk
Ingredients Meat Sauce:
6 pieces of smoked bacon (cut into tiny bits)
2 lb ground bison meat (or beef, chicken, turkey)
1.5 lb stewing beef cut into tiny pieces
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery
8 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
1 bunch basil
1 handful Italian parsley
2 sprigs rosemary
1 tsp sage
3/4 bottle of red wine
2x 798mL cans of plum tomatoes
1 large butternut squash (peeled, seeded and sliced)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbps olive oil
2 packages fresh lasagna sheets or no-boil lasagna noodles
1.5 cups of shredded parmesan cheese
1 large bunch of greens (beet greens, chard, kale or spinach), chopped
2 fresh tomatoes
1 large handful fresh basil
Optional: additional shredded mozzarella
Pour your whipping cream or half and half into a jar with a lid. Add two tablespoons of buttermilk. Cover and leave for 12-24h on the counter.
For the meat sauce you will want a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven style pot with a lid. Put chopped bacon in the pot and saute with the cinnamon until brown.
Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook until soft. Cut the stewing beef into small pieces and add to the pot with the bison.
Stir until browned. Use more olive oil if necessary. Then add chopped carrots, celery, fresh and dried herbs, salt, pepper, canned tomatoes, and red wine.
Replace the lid. Simmer on the stove top or place in the oven at 300 degrees for 2.5 hours.
You will be left with a big pot of yummy meat sauce, double what you need for the lasagna.
You can choose to roast the squash in advance at this point as well. Peel, deseed and slice the squash into happy faces. Toss with olive oil, cumin, red pepper flakes and black pepper in a large bowl. Transfer to a roasting dish and roast for 45 minutes at 400 degrees F until soft and browned. You can leave this overnight in the fridge.
Day Three: Assembly
Wipe your lasagna dish with a bit of olive oil. Place a layer of fresh lasagna sheets on the bottom with the noodles rising up the sides of the pan (this keeps hot pieces together when you serve!). My dish is a weird shape for lasagna so it isn’t the best example of how to do this since it is wide and shallow. A more narrow and tall shaped casserole is more traditional for lasagna.
Mix your crème fraîche with a cup of shredded parmesan, salt and pepper. This is your “white sauce.”
Spread a layer of meat sauce on the pasta, then a thin layer of the white sauce, and finally a layer of chopped greens. I used beet greens this time around.
On that layer repeat red sauce, white sauce, greens then pasta.
Finally, on the top layer spread the rest of the white sauce. Slice the fresh tomatoes thinly and place on top along with shredded basil and the rest of the shredded parmesan or some shredded mozzarella. Done! A glass of chianti and you are good to go.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven until brown and bubbly.
Let settle on the counter for 20 minutes after the top is browned. Freeze individual portions in ziplock bags for a quick lunch after a long, freezing cold ride in the winter.