butternut squash lasagna

butternut squash lasagna

I woke up the other night having dreamt of butternut squash lasagna. I often dream about what I’m cooking in real life, and sometimes have dreams about what I might want to be cooking when I wake up. Even while I sleep, my world often revolves around food. Some might find it odd, others – boring, but if nothing else, this dreaming peculiarity led me to gem of a recipe and for that I am forever grateful to that odd head of mine that not only conjures up food ideas, but also offers solutions to real-life pickles I face in the kitchen.

lasagna mise

In my dream, I was sitting at my dinner table, thinking about what to make for supper. The previous night (the awake, real-life part), I had decided upon a braised chicken with Moroccan spices and dates for our Sunday supper, but at the last minute, changed my mind and promised Andrew his favorite soup, scrapping the planned-on lentil soup. That, of course, threw a wrench in the works because no one wants to eat chicken soup followed by a chicken main course. I thought that something vegetarian might be a good, sensible idea, but I couldn’t make up my mind on what that something would be. With my supper plans unresolved, I went to bed with next evening’s meal on my mind.

butternut squash lasagna butternut squash lasagna

In my dream, I was making a list of possible main courses for dinner. I normally make lots of lists and they are strewn about all over the apartment. So it makes perfect sense that I’d be doing the same in my dream, but still, that consistency in my dream struck me as pretty funny.

As I was jotting down possible options, I thought perhaps a vegetable, spinach butternut squash (eureka!) lasagna would be perfect: the autumn flavors of cooked squash, layered with béchamel, and fresh mozarella and Parmesan, sounded perfect.

In general, I prefer my lasagna sans meat, using vegetables instead to create layers of flavor. While lasagna Bolognese sounds heavenly in theory, immediately upon eating a piece, I am compelled to take a nap. For the rest of the night. Even though I adore pasta Bolognese, and could eat it by bowlfuls regularly, the lasagna Bolognese doesn’t quite do it for me. Apparently, I’m not the only one.

butternut squash lasagna butternut squash lasagna

So how did this idea, conceived in the wee hours, come out? Let’s just say that I pray for all my dreams to have such delicious results. The lasagna turned out to be even better than I originally expected. It was delicate, autumnal and felt light as a feather. The combination of the melted burrata and Parmesan gave the butternut squash that unmistakable taste of October – the kind that is accompanied by mulled cider or fabulous red wine. Sage and pistachios, finely chopped and mixed with the squash, added a nice earthy dimension and some needed texture.

butternut squash lasagna

And best of all, no one at the table complained about the absence of meat. Everyone ate their portion and then immediately demanded seconds. A tiny piece was left over at the end of the night, lonely and abandoned in its baking dish. It became part of Andrew’s lunch the next day. Had I known the lasagna was going to be such a hit, I would’ve doubled the ingredients. Unfortunately, my dream never told me to do that. Tant pis. Clearly, there’s some room for improvement with the logistical portion of the dreams, but at least it gets the meals right.

butternut squash lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Adapted liberally from Gourmet

Squash Filling
2 large onions, chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup (maybe a few tbsp more) vegetable broth
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 cup pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped

1 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp unsalted butter
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

For Assembling Lasagna:
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne, or regular lasagne sheets, cooked according to instructions on the package, drained and cooled (1/2 lb)

Make Squash Filling:
In a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, pepper, and broth and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Bring filling to room temperature.

Make Béchamel Sauce While Squash Cooks:
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, cook garlic in butter over moderately low heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, 3 minutes – this will make your roux. Add milk in a thin constant stream, whisking all the while. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Your béchamel will thicken. Whisk in salt and white pepper, discard bay leaf, and remove from heat. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)

Assemble lasagna:

1. With the rack positioned in the middle, heat the oven to 425°F. Toss the cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in a buttered (13x9x2-inch) baking dish (or another shallow (3-quart) baking dish) which is facing you lengthwise, and cover with 3 pasta sheets going the width of the dish, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup of the sauce and one third of filling (not 1/3 cup, 1/3 of the ENTIRE filling), then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup of cheese.

Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagna in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10-15 minutes more (my oven did it in 15, yours might run hotter). Let lasagna stand 15-20 minutes before serving.

In the meantime, you can fry some leftover sage leaves in some olive oil. Over low heat, warm olive oil until it simmers and gently fried sage leaves (when dropped in oil). Sage leaves are done when the bubbling around them subsides. I, of course, was too hungry to do this. But no reason why you can’t make ahead. I am just bad at planning.


  • Christine

    Can I just say how much I like Andrew, if only because he seems to be (1) making you so stinking happy and (2) inspiring a lot of really great food up in here.


    The other day I was totally feigning a squash pasta dish, and while eating out ended up ordering squash ravioli…it was such a disappointment, the squash was way too sweet, the “brown” butter not nearly browned enough, it was like eating pumpkin pie covered in sage.

    But this, this looks like something to get inspired by! Yum.

  • noëlle {simmer down!}

    I love this idea, especially the pistachios- I’ve got a bag that’s been demanding my attention before they go stale.

    I agree that typical Italian-American style meat lasagna can be like a rock in the gut. However, I have to put in a bid of support for the lasagna bolognese recipe in the Splendid Table cookbook. I made it for a Daring Bakers challenge a while back (back when I actually had time to do Daring Bakers!) and it was one of the top 5 things to ever come out of my kitchen. Lynne Rosetto Kasper goes out of her way to say that the noodles should just be coated with the “thinnest veil of sauce” and the finished dish does not even remotely resemble the brick-like lasagnas most people are familiar with. So stinking good, I’m swooning just thinking about it!

  • Kate

    So perfect! I was actually going to make the Smitten Kitchen mushroom lasagna for a friend tonight, but the hubs is not a fan of mushrooms, so I was thinking of doing half mushroom and half squash! Or maybe just all squash, now that I’ve read your recipe! It sounds so much more delicious and complex than what I was going to try (I mean, I had the garlic, sage, and squash, but for whatever reason, onions never crossed my mind… and pistachios? What a great idea!) :)

  • Neha

    oh wow, this looks so delish! i was wondering if using pumpkin puree will ruin the taste? i just have a lot of it at home :0

  • Radish

    Neha – I think pumpkin should work really well. Or if you have time, bake the pumpkin and use a potato masher to smush the pumpkin. I think it’ll be divine!

  • Tyla

    I saw the title of the post, and I was intrigued. But my interest started to wane when bolognese lasagna was put in a less than favorable light (I can’t get enough). Thankfully I kept reading…because I love butternut squash and parmesan, but with burratta? GENIUS. I can’t wait to try this out. Thanks so much for having delicious dreams and being kind enough to share them.

  • Andy

    Followed this recipe today and dinner was lovely, thanks to you! As I was layering on the bechamel and cheese, I was very skeptical about the “light as a feather” description. Strangely enough, I agreed with you once I devoured my first helping. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Laura

    Just made this. DELICIOUS! I left out the pistachios, used whole wheat lasagna sheets, and substituted goat cheese for parmesan. Thank you!

  • Holiday Highlights - Food In General

    […] Butternut squash lasagna: My husband’s birthday is the day after New Year’s Day, and he is newly vegetarian. I made this as a main course for his birthday dinner. It truly is a genius combination of flavors. One thing I changed: to cut down on the dairy, I made the béchamel with rice milk instead of dairy milk. No one noticed. I also pureed the butternut squash filling before adding it to the lasagna, a step the recipe skips. I used the aforementioned immersion blender, but you could use a food processor, a hand mixer, or a potato masher as well. Or if you like it chunky, just leave it be. […]

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