Friday, 18 January 2013

Butternut Squash Lasagne

I'm sure you get the picture now: Celebrate is a pretty good book and you ought to buy it if you like the sound of it.

But just for laughs here's one last recipe from it, for a butternut squash lasagne, which is really great.

I don't especially like butternut squash but I often feel, especially at this dark time of year, that one really ought to make an effort to vary one's vegetable intake, or you can go for months just eating cheese on toast and baked beans.

This is a very good thing to do for an awful lot of people and it's also, if this is a factor, incredibly cheap to make.

Don't be scared of the white sauce involved in this (also called a bechamel). I will talk you through it. Now is as good a time as any to learn how to make one if you don't know how already.

Butternut Squash Lasagne
Serves 8
this is not Pippa's precise recipe, but it's very close.

1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1.2kg butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and sliced into crescents about 0.5cm thick (that's about the width of a pound coin).
1 bunch sage leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
450g fresh spinach
some nutmeg
salt and pepper
12-15 fresh or dried lasagne pasta sheets
2 x 125g balls mozzarella

for the white sauce or bechamel
125g butter
125g flour
800ml milk
75 grated parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling between layers of lasagne

Preheat the oven to 200C

1 Put the butternut squash, onion and garlic on a baking tray and sloop over some light olive oil, a generous scattering of salt and pepper and a small handful of chopped sage leaves. Roast for 20 mins.

2 NOW - make your white sauce.

- Melt the butter in a pan. I know it seems like a lot, but this is how much you need, so just go for it. That much butter takes a while to melt, about 5-10 mins.

- When the butter is melted TAKE THE PAN OFF THE HEAT and then add the flour, a tablespoon at a time. Mix and mash together between spoonfuls until you have a thick paste.

- WITH THE PAN STILL OFF THE HEAT, splash over some milk and incorporate. Then splash over some more until you have a runny concoction.

- Now put this back over a medium flame and add the rest of the milk, whisking all the time. Keep stirring and whisking until this gets very thick, then take off the heat and add the 75g parmesan. Throw in a good pinch of salt and about 6 turns of the pepper grinder.

3 Put the spinach in a pan with about 1 cm water in the bottom and grate over a bit of nutmeg, about three swipes of the nut on the grater ought to do it as nutmeg is terribly strong and too much ruins everything.

Cook this for about 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted. Then drain in a colander or sieve and really squash it down to get all the water out. I also usually have a go at it with a pair of scissors, just to make it look and seem a less like a tangle of dead leaves caught in a drain.

4 If you are using dried lasagne sheets, you now have to blanch them for 3 mins in boiling water. Now, the minute I put my sheets into boiling water they stuck together, causing me to panic and burn my fingers off later frantically unsticking them by sliding a knife between the layers.

I have no idea how one is supposed to do this without the lasagne sticking together. A lot of oil in the water or what? All suggestions welcome in the comments box.

5 Now assemble your lasagne. Put a layer of pasta on the bottom, followed by the butternut squash and onion and the spinach. Then white sauce, then a bit of parmesan. layer this as best you can, it doesn't really matter what you end up with on top. Although if you finish with a layer of pasta, it's wise to make sure you've got quite a lot of white sauce left otherwise the pasta crisps up in the oven and crunchy pasta is a bit of a challenging mouthful.

6 Finish this off with sliced mozzarella. Stick in the oven for 25-30 mins. You can fry off some sage leaves in butter and stick them on the top if you're feeling really flash.

Alas, I just looked through my pictures and I can't find the one I took of this lasagne. Though I'm absolutely sure I did take one. Anyway I've written it now and I'm not writing up another bloody recipe for something I HAVE got a photo of - I've got SNOW to play in!!!! So you'll just have to imagine what it looks like.

Or buy Celebrate, it's there on p. 30 looking splendid.


  1. My lasagne sticks together too - what I now do is get a large saucepan of boiling water and put in on the worktop, then take each bit of lasagne in a pair of tongs and dangle it around in the boiling water for a few seconds, it takes the edge of the hardness and is miles easier...

  2. Love this. It's ridiculously cheesy and works with frozen chopped spinach too, though it's not quite as pretty at the end. Perfect for that 'vegetarian coming for supper' solution (yes, we do occasionally let them in). The BSG, being the greedy pig that he is, suggested it as a SIDE dish to go with a roast. naughty. As for blanching, I came to the same conclusion - oil is the answer, methinks. Happy weekend.

  3. I never normally blanch dried lasagna sheets, as they tend to soften enough in the oven.

  4. I just put my lasagne sheets one on top of the other facing in different directions so they only stick in the middle and are easier to peel. Still sticky though.
    Then again I am a student so my lasagne is hardly the most professional looking.

  5. I never blanch my dried lasagna and it always works out fine if that's any help! Love the blog by the way - enjoy the snow :)

  6. Most lasagne sheets don't need to be pre-cooked these days. I haven't done so for years, but I def remember the ball ache of doing so once upon a time. LLGxx

  7. Imaginging. I'm not too keen on butternut squash and the kids defintiely aren't but they doo like lasagne so may be this is the way to sneak it in between the cheese/beans on toast

  8. A tip for the lasagne, I would do 2 sheets at a time and keep them separate by using a pair of chef's tongs then stick them in some cold water til they are all blanched. Then again, couldn't you just use fresh lasagne sheets?

  9. Sounds good - thanks for the recipe, I need something to make for the veggies at a hen weekend I'm organising and this'll do nicely. I assume it'll go down nicely with terribly cheap wine drunk through a willy straw?

  10. No matter how much you tell me this book is good (and i generally trust your opinion, really, I do) I can't buy this book because I CANNOT buy something written by Pippa Middleton. Just can't do it. Also, I've only ever used dried lasagna sheets and I never blanche them, I just layer them on top dry and they work perfectly well.

    Enjoy the snow!

  11. See, I've always used the "no need to pre-cook" lasag. sheets because a) i'm lazy and b) i always suspected that what happened to you would happen to me too and they would all stick together. But then the only lasag. I make is one with courgette slices and my own tomato pasta type sauce made from tinned tomatoes so there's loads of liquid in it to soften them in the oven anyway. What are your views on ready to use?

  12. Blanche dried lasagne sheets?? Nonsense, surely. Ignore, put them in dry and they soften up while it's cooking. Ignore! Problem solved.
    Pleasure to oblige.

  13. Oh gosh. A vegetable lasagne that actually sounds nice. Well done Esther/Pippa.

  14. i love butternut squash lasagne... my trick with the lasagne sheets is to drop them two at a time and blanch for a minute while I am constructing the dish. A bit more time-consuming but it works for me.

  15. You can just dunk your lasagne in a sheet at a time to blanch it, but being lazy I just make the sauce a bit wetter than recipe says and use them dry out of the packet if I can't find fresh. Doesn't seem to make any difference and no boiled fingertips.

  16. Hello Esther, Danielle's mom here. The way I keep lasagna sheets from sticking is I drop them one at a time in the boiling water kind of clockwise so they are fanned out. No oil necessary. Love your blog and butternut squash!

  17. Coincidentally (for me because I’ve just read this!) I made a butternut squash lasagne last night too. There are 2 other things you could do to add to the savoury/sweet flavour. One is to add pureed roast squash to the b├ęchamel sauce and the other is to fry some mushrooms in garlic and butter and add to the spinach. But I agree that squash has its place. It's very sweet and def needs something to counteract that. I hope you don't think it's arrogant of me to suggest variations to your recipe btw! :/

  18. For anyone really put off the white sauce element, there's a really easy all in one way. My dad taught me this when I was about 10, but I think it might originally have been Delia...but anyway: - 1 pint milk, 40g butter, 40g flour, 75g cheese (cheddar and parmesan for preference but anything really).
    Stick everything but the cheese in a pan. Over a low to medium heat, whisk continuously until it's thickened (if you do get lumps, although I've NEVER had a problem and I make this loads) take it off the heat and whisk until your arms hurt. Simmer gently for 5 mins until it doesn't taste all floury. Then add the cheese and whisk again until it's all melted. Taste and season as you like.

  19. I made this for tea the night before last and it was incredible! I was a bit apprehensive at first about it being a tad dry due to the lack of a tomato based sauce but it was absolutely scrumptious (and not at all dry). I am getting more and more tempted to buy Celebrate now!

  20. I made this and my 5 year old son burst into tears and said "Why do I have to eat Lasagna? I haven't been naughty. I haven't done anything wrong" - but we enjoyed it anyway.

  21. I have just stumbled across your blog when I googled this recipe, I'm glad I did! Each post is perfect for feeding time and I have been inspired to try lots of your dishes.

  22. Hi, I tried this recipe out and it was yummy.I am pretty useless in the kitchen, but made the effort and made the white sauce from scratch (shameful to admit) as this is usually bought pre-made, and apart from a few tiny lumps it was ok ( couldn't see the lumps in the finished dish anyway unless you looked very hard!!). Looking forward to more happy time- with a dash of stress- in the kitchen.