Looking for a beautiful autumnal dish? Becca shows how roasted squash can transform lasagne. Add a simple spinach and walnut pesto and a creamy béchamel sauce and you’ve got yourself the perfect dinner.
If there’s one ingredient that comes to mind at this time of year, it’s the pumpkin - or its far-easier-to-deal-with relative, the butternut squash. Just one mouthful of that soft and curiously sweet vegetable immediately brings to mind images of autumn leaves and wellington boots. Its flavour is really brought to life when it’s roasted - and once you combine the roasted squash with a simple spinach and walnut pesto and a creamy béchamel sauce, you’ve got yourself the perfect dinner.
We all know that lasagne isn’t exactly the quickest dish to make, but sometimes a couple of hours spent in the kitchen is just what I fancy, especially when the weather outside is either cold (i.e.: most of the time) or rainy (i.e.: all of the time). There’s something very therapeutic about putting some music on, closing the kitchen door and leaving all your problems behind in a big panful of béchamel sauce.
The spinach pesto in this recipe not only adds a bit of interest (look at those colours!), but some extra nutrition too - I always feel virtuous when there’s a bit of green in my food. The combination of the slightly sweet roasted butternut squash, the nutty pesto and the cheesy sauce is just heavenly.
I always use no-boil lasagne noodles (in fact most of the lasagne sheets I see in the shops are ones that require no pre-boiling), but if you’re not lucky enough to find those where you live, just remember to cook them beforehand. You’ll be able to boil them while the squash is roasting so it shouldn’t take too much longer - and anyway, what’s one extra job when you’ve already committed to cooking a lasagne?
This recipe serves 4 (or 3 if you find it hard to resist going back for seconds…), so it’s perfect for a small family or dinner party. Serve it with a slice of garlic bread, a side salad and a glass of white wine and you might even be able to stretch it to 5 or 6 - but doing that would mean no seconds for anyone, so plan carefully!
Cheesy roasted squash lasagne with spinach and walnut pesto
1 fairly large butternut squash (if you’re buying the flesh pre-cut, you’ll need about 500g)
1 clove garlic
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp plain flour
Pinch of ground nutmeg
120g cheddar cheese, grated
150g no-boil lasagne sheets
Heat the oven to 200°C (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F).
Peel the squash, remove the seeds and cut into 1cm dice. Toss it with a little cooking oil, and season with salt and pepper. Lay it out in a single layer on a baking tray, and roast for 30-40 minutes, until soft and just beginning to crisp up on the edges.
While the squash is roasting, place the walnuts, garlic and spinach in a food processor, and blitz until a coarse paste is formed. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and process again to combine. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and, over a low heat, add the flour. Whisk continually for a minute or two to cook the flour, then add the milk around 50ml at a time, continuing to whisk. Wait until each portion of milk is well combined and the mixture is smooth before adding the next amount.
When you have used all the milk and the mixture has created a smooth sauce that has thickened slightly, season and add a pinch of nutmeg and just over half of the grated cheese (around 70g).
Remove from the heat, and stir for one more minute until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth again.
When the squash is cooked, transfer it to a bowl and mash coarsely with a fork. Alternatively, if you would like your squash purée to be really smooth, you could blitz it in your food processor.
Turn the oven down to 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F).
It’s now time to layer up your lasagne. Start with a spoonful or two of the cheese sauce, and spread it across the bottom of a baking dish (mine measures 10 x 6 inches) - you only need a very thin layer to stop the pasta from sticking.
Add a layer of lasagne sheets (just break them up to fit your dish).
From now on, it doesn’t really matter what order you layer things up, but I made mine in this order:
- half of the squash mixture (spread it around with a fork)
- a layer of lasagne
- 1/2 of the remaining cheese sauce (spread it around to cover the edges of the pasta sheets) - 1/2 of the spinach pesto (just dot it around the sauce)
- a layer of lasagne
- the remaining squash
- the remaining spinach pesto (again, just dot it around)
- a layer of lasagne
- the remaining cheese sauce (again, make sure all of the pasta is covered - if you can, spread the sauce out enough that it touches the edge of the dish)
- the remaining grated cheese (you should have about 50g left for this)
I also like to add a little more black pepper on top.
Bake the lasagne, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and the pasta is soft. If you find the cheese is browning too quickly, cover the dish with foil and continue to cook until the pasta is soft.
Leave to stand for 5 minutes before cutting.
Inspired? For more delicious vegetarian recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.
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