For the past few years I’ve been making various pasta dishes with butternut squash, but each time I sit down to taste them I always find they’re lacking a certain, “how do you say…” And then, one night recently I woke up saying it: “Besciamella” pronounced, besh-a-me-La. This beautiful, white sauce is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine (known in this case as “Béchamel”), but it is also used in many Italian recipes, especially in lasagne alla Bolognese.
So this, this was my inspiration. A traditional Bolognese lasgana, but instead of a meat ragù, a ragù di zucca. I envisioned tender bits of flavorful squash and sage paired with the rich, creamy, nuttiness of the besciamella. When I finally got around to making this recipe that’s been swimming in my mind, it was everything I dreamed it would be.
Brad told me he doesn’t see this as a Thanksgiving recipe. But that’s because the man loves himself some stuffing and he’s secretly hoping I’ll be making the lasagna over and over again this Winter (and I will). But I think this would be a lovely Vegetarian entree or side dish for your Thanksgiving table that will truly show your guests just how thankful you are for them.
I won’t say it’s easy. It has many steps (as does any lasagna), and takes time. At a certain point you will have three pots going on your stove while your oven preheats. But it is only moderate in terms of difficultly and the the rest of what is required from you is love. You can prepare it in advance and bake it when the time comes, serving it from your heart, al forno.
Butternut Squash Lasagne alla Bolognese
Butternut Squash Ragù
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large Butternut squash (about 2lbs.) peeled and diced into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1 large or 2 small carrots, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 6 sage leaves, minced
- 3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable, if store-bought, use low-sodium)
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Heat the butter in a large 12″ sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the squash, stirring occasionally for about 6-8 minutes until it begins to soften and brown in spots. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, carrots, fennel, and garlic, stirring occasionally for another 6-8 minutes until the onions are translucent and all the vegetables are beginning to soften. Stir in the sage and add the stock.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes until the squash is tender and beginning to break apart and the remaining liquid is thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While the ragù is simmering, make…
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour, and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns golden brown, about 6-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan over medium heat until it is just beginning to bubble. Add the milk to the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until the sauce is very smooth. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and season with salt and nutmeg.
Finally, assemble the…
- 1 pound fresh pasta sheets*, or dried lasagna noodles cooked until just al dente, blanched in cold water and drained
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with melted butter.
Reserve 1 cup of the prepared besciamella and layer remaining ingredients from the bottom: ragù, pasta, besciamella, and grated cheese making 3 to 4 layers finishing with pasta. Top with reserved besciamella and 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled over the top. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the lasagna is bubbling. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 20 minutes, slice, and serve.
*I prefer this lasagna with a fresh egg pasta. If I’m not making my own, I like to buy Raffetto’s lasagna sheets, which are also available at Union Market in Brooklyn. Check your local gourmet market or Italian grocer for packaged fresh pasta, either refrigerated or frozen.