Friday, December 9, 2011

Recipe Fridays: Butternut squash lasagna with brown-butter ricotta

This is a recipe based on the idea of those yummy butternut squash ravioli that proliferate at restaurants this time of year--butternut squash, brown butter, and sage, but in something you can make at home!  This recipe takes at least 1.5 hours (not all of it active) from start to finish, so plan ahead!

1 box flat "no boil" lasagna noodles
1 3lb butternut squash
1 16 oz container ricotta cheese (part skim)
1/2 stick butter
olive oil, salt, nutmeg, maple syrup
3-4 leaves fresh sage
parmesan cheese

Start by peeling the butternut squash.  The easiest method is to chop the "stem" part off from the bulb, and then chop off the very top and peel it straight down the sides.  Then cut the bottom off the bulb, peel, but in half, and scoop out seeds.  Chop into 1" chunks (or smaller for faster cooking time).  Toss with olive oil and salt, then spread in single layer on 1 or 2 foil-covered cookie sheets, and roast at 375F for about 30 minutes, stirring 3-4 times, or until squash is soft and starting to brown lightly in places.  Either place in blender or in a bowl and use immersion blender, add about two cups of water, and blend to a smooth puree.  This takes the place of "sauce" in regular no-boil lasagna, so you want it to be quite slushy--add more water if needed.  Add maple syrup to taste (it should be sweet, but not dessert-like) and just a hint of nutmeg.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, swirling with a whisk, over low-medium heat.  Continue cooking until it starts to brown and smell "toasty", then reduce heat and cook 1-2 minutes more until butter is browned (but not black!) throughout.  Stir all but 1 tablespoon of the browned butter into the ricotta cheese (this is why I recommend part skim--it gets plenty rich), then add about 1 cup of water to make the ricotta light and fluffy.  Season with salt to taste.  Chop the sage and set aside.

Spread 1/4 of the squash on the bottom of a lasagna pan.  Layer three lasagna noodles on top (or four if you like to overlap, but that means one less layer. I prefer to leave gaps and let the noodles spread to fill).  Spread 1/2 ricotta mixture on noodles.  Layer three more noodles on top, then 1/4 of the squash mixture. On top of this layer, sprinkle the chopped sage evenly.  Layer three more noodles, then the rest of the ricotta.  Three more noodles, then 1/4 squash.  Three more noodles, then spread remaining squash mixture on top (this is important, to ensure the top noodle layer cooks) and pour down the sides.  You should end up with squash, noodle, ricotta, noodle, squash & sage, noodle, ricotta, noodle, squash, noodle, squash--5 noodle layers, 2 ricotta, and 4 squash.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, cover with foil, and bake at 375F for about 20 minutes, then uncover and let the cheese brown for the last 10.  You'll know it's done when a knife easily inserts, meaning the noodles are cooked through.

To serve, dot with the last tablespoon of brown butter, and cut into slices between the noodles in thirds, then in thirds the other way.  Goes great with raw kale salad.  Serves 4.

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