In this unique lasagna, perfect for the fall and winter months, a ricotta enriched butternut squash purée takes the place of a marinara sauce. A cheesy spinach filling complements the creamy squash for this satisfying and healthy vegetarian main dish.
You will need a medium size butternut squash, weighing two and a half to three pounds. Cut the stem end off the butternut squash then cut the squash in half where the bulb end meets the neck. Cut both pieces in half lengthwise. scoop the seeds and fiber out of the bulb end, save seeds for later use. I rinse the seeds off and dry them between layers of paper towels. Toss with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a 375°F oven until they pop and become toasty brown. They are great for topping salads and for snacking.
Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper. Brush the squash pieces lightly with olive oil and place the four sections of squash cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake in a 375° oven for about 50 to 55 minutes, until the squash pierces easily with the tip of the knife. Let cool for 10 minutes, the skin should come off easily. Place the squash pieces in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. If necessary, add a little additional liquid, purée until smooth, you will have about 2½ cups. Add 1 cup of ricotta cheese and purée again, season to taste with salt and pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg.
Place the spinach in a large bowl. Lightly rinse the spinach and toss in the bowl. The moisture will help wilt the spinach quickly. I used a 1 pound container of organic triple washed spinach. Finely chop two garlic cloves. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add the olive oil and swirl it around. Saute the garlic for a few minutes then add the spinach by the handfuls, adding more each time as it wilts down. After squeezing out any additional liquid, the end result will be one generous cup of spinach.
You can make this version with regular lasagna noodles or if you are following a gluten-free diet, I would recommend brown rice pasta noodles from Tinkyada, easily found in large grocery stores. They are actually good and have a nutty brown rice flavor. Follow package instructions with regular noodles, I would suggest cooking brown rice noodles for about 10 minutes, no longer. Drain them in a colander, rinse with cold water and dry on parchment lined baking sheets. I haven’t tried this recipe with no bake noodles, my suggestion would be just be certain that the ingredients in your lasagna are moist enough to cook the noodles properly. There are 14 noodles in the package of brown rice noodles, I cook them all in case of breakage. You can always make a lasagna roll up with any leftover purée and cheese.
In a medium bowl mix the well-drained garlic spinach with one and a quarter cups of ricotta cheese and a cup of mozzarella cheese or a cheese blend that you prefer. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
To assemble the lasagna, spray the bottom of your baking tray with nonstick spray.I used a disposable pan with dimensions of 11 x 8 x 2 . Spread one-third of the butternut squash mixture over the bottom of the tray. Top with three lasagna noodles. Dollop one half of the spinach cheese mixture over the noodles. Continue to layer and finish with the remaining butternut squash, sprinkle with a generous amount of cheese, and a sprinkle of dried basil and oregano. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for a half hour. After the half hour take off the foil reattach any cheese that has attached to the foil and bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Since lasagna is a time-consuming dish you could do this in stages, make the butternut squash puree one day, the spinach filling the next and assemble and cook on the third day. You could substitute frozen spinach rather than cooking down your own. Possible additions to the dish include sautéed onions, sage leaves, even toasted walnuts. Serve with a crisp salad of arugula, fennel and apples. As it is with all lasagna, it’s even better the next day.
Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna
Ingredients for butternut squash filling
- 1-3 lb butternut squash
- Olive oil
- 1¼ c regular or low-fat ricotta cheese
- ½ t salt
- ¼ t freshly ground nutmeg
Ingredients for spinach layer
- 1 lb fresh spinach
- 1 t olive oil
- 2 t minced garlic
- 1 c regular or low-fat ricotta cheese
- 1¼ c mozzarella cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
To assemble the lasagna
- 1 lb lasagna noodles (regular or gluten-free)
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- Shredded Parmesan cheese
- Dried basil and oregano
Directions for making the squash puree
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
- With a sharp knife cut the squash in half where the neck meets the bulbous end. Cut both of these pieces in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and reserve for toasting if desired.
- Brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil and place the four squash pieces on a baking sheet cut side down. Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes, rotate and bake another 25 minutes. The squash should be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
- Cool the squash for about ten minutes, until it can be handled. Scoop out the flesh and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree squash until smooth. Add the ricotta cheese, nutmeg and salt and puree again. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a little more ricotta if necessary, the puree should have the consistency of a thick marinara sauce. Set puree aside for the assembly. Leave oven on at 375° if you will be finishing the lasagna.
Directions for the spinach filling
- Place the fresh spinach in a large colander that is set inside a large bowl. Sprinkle the spinach lightly with water and toss spinach lightly.
- Heat olive oil in a 12″ saute pan. Add garlic and saute until light golden brown. Add the spinach by the handful, adding more as it wilts down. After draining the spinach of excess liquid, you will have a generous cup.
- In a medium bowl combine spinach and garlic along with ricotta, mozzarella, salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Directions for assembling the lasagna
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add lasagna noodles and cook according to package directions. Stir noodles occasionally to prevent them from sticking. Drain well and rinse with cool water.
- To assemble the lasagna, spray the bottom of the baking dish with nonstick spray. I used a disposable tray with dimensions of 8″ x 11″ x 2″.
- Spread one-third of the butternut squash puree over the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese. Top with three lasagna noodles. Dollop one half of the spinach cheese mixture over the noodles, sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese. Top this layer with the second layer of noodles.
- Spread your second layer of butternut squash over the noodles. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, then top with the third layer of lasagna noodles.
- Top this with the remaining spinach cheese mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
- Top with the remaining butternut squash puree and spread evenly over the noodles. Sprinkle this layer generously with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle lightly with dried basil and oregano.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the foil, reattach any cheese clinging to the foil and continue to bake uncover for another 10 to 15 minutes. You can turn the broiler on for a few minutes if you want to brown the cheese.