Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne
Many years ago, when I was footloose and fancy free with a disposable (ish) income, I had a birthday lunch with my friend in a very nice restaurant. We had champagne and complimentary handmade chocolates and for my starter I had butternut squash ravioli. They were utterly delicious; the whole meal was delicious but it is tantamount to their particular deliciousness that they are the one course I can remember clearly (not tantamount to the champagne at all…) Now, not only do I no longer have boozy, girly lunches in nice restaurants but the arrival of butternut squash in our vegbox fills me with dread.
No longer able to stomach butternut squash risotto or butternut squash and tomato soup (both very tasty by the way, just definitely overeaten) I decided to put the effort in and make a butternut squash lasagne. I’ve made one before, a kind of random compilation that was verging on inedible, so this time I decided to go down the traditional route of combining butternut squash and spinach.
On my second attempt I increased the quantities of both the butternut squash and the cheese sauce and it was definitely worth it. FYI any vegbox users; you can substitute the standard onion and garlic for the young green onions and any wet (fresh) garlic you may get. It adds a lovely, subtle, fresh taste. Serves four adults. The toddler has progressed to Heinz Tomato Soup but still pretty much in his chip phase.
- 500g butternut squash, peeled and sliced thinly (half a cm is good)
- 250g bag of spinach
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, diced
- Large sprig of rosemary
- 1 quantity cheese sauce (see below)
- 9 lasagne sheets
- 1 ball of mozzarella
- Olive oil (approx 5 tbsp)
- For the cheese sauce
- 3 tsp unsalted butter
- 3 tsp flour
- 300 ml whole milk
- 50g cheddar
- 25g parmesan
- 2 tbsp cream cheese
- Fresh nutmeg to taste
Preheat the oven to 180C (fan) and butter the dish you are going to use. Finely chop the sprigs of rosemary then lay the peeled and sliced butternut squash on a baking tray, sprinkle the rosemary over and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast in the oven for around 25 minutes (check after 15 to make sure they are not burning and adjust the temperature if needed.)
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan. While this is heating, rinse the spinach in a colander and add a handful at a time, stirring continuously until it has all wilted. Put back into the colander and sit over a bowl to allow it to drain and cool. When it is cool, squeeze as much water out as possible.
Heat the final 2 tablespoons of oil in a small frying pan and gently fry the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and soft. Leave to one side.
Not it is time to prepare your oh so cheesy sauce. You need to put the required butter into a pan and start melting it. Once this is done completely, the next step would be to put flour in and start stirring at a relatively quick pace. This will quickly lead to a pasty texture or ‘roux’. Stir until it starts to smell biscuity then pour the milk in slowly with a couple of splashes at a time, allowing to thicken slightly before adding more. Make sure to stir or whisk continuously to avoid any lumps (whisking is probably a better bet for this). When all the milk has been added, turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer for ten minutes. When the time is up, remove from hob and mix the cream cheese in before adding the cheddar and parmesan. Finish with a healthy grating of nutmeg and leave to one side. You can also add this basic tomato sauce to your lasagne. It has balsamic vinegar and basil so gives the whole thing a punch.
Now you need to precook the lasagne sheets. I do this regardless of whether the packet says to precook or not (ref the almost inedible lasagne with raw lasagne sheets). It is annoying, and will use up probably the last pan in your kitchen, but it is worth it and you’ve already put so much effort in you may as well go the whole hog. This is how I do it: get a large frying pan and heat a couple of inches of water until boiling. Add one sheet of lasagne then put a spatula on top and add a second sheet of lasagne. (The spatula will stop them sticking together.) Cook for three minutes then lay on a plate to cool. Yes, this is a massive faff but you already have more washing up than you thought possible and on the plus side it will then allow you to cut the lasagne sheets to fit your dish.
When everything is ready, preheat your oven to 180C (no fan) and start to assemble your lasagne.
Cover the bottom of your dish with pasta sheets then add half the butternut squash as a layer. Take half the spinach and kind of dot over the squash, followed by half the onion and garlic mixture. Add some of the cheese sauce, about six dessert spoonfuls. Cover with lasagne sheets and repeat for a second layer. Once the second layer is done, add a final layer of lasagne sheets and cover with the remainder of the cheese sauce. Dot the mozzarella on top then cook in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes. I did mine at 180C without fan for the first 15 minutes then 180C with fan for the remaining 15 minutes, which meant I got the top nice and crispy. If you don’t have a fan oven, turn up to 200C after 15 minutes and if you only have a fan oven, then start off at 160C before increasing to 180C.
For some reason the thought of making a meat lasagne is totally beyond me but I do actually enjoy making vegetarian ones. Who knows why! While this recipe does involve a good bit of effort, it is a good one if you are being greeted with butternut squash a few too many times in your vegbox or have a vegetarian coming to eat. Should also freeze well.