Butternut Squash Lasagna

Friend Allison raved about this lasagna on her blog, and it sounded so yummy, different and interesting I had to try it myself. I wasn't sure what to expect with the combination of all these flavors, but usually you can't go wrong with a recipe from Giada. We were definitely not disappointed. The mixture of the sweet squash, the basil, the creamy sauce and cheese, and the hint of nutmeg created an amazingly delicious combination. I've never tried any kind of vegetable lasagna, but I really liked this!

Also a little note: I do not own a blender, or a food processor. But this still worked for me. I pureed the squash with a hand mixer, and to make the basil sauce, I just chopped the basil very very finely and stirred it into the sauce. It worked well and the end result was still fantastic. This smelled amazing coming out of the oven.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
½ cup water
3 amaretti cookies, crumbled
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 ½ cups whole milk
Pinch nutmeg
¾ cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles {i used regular, cooked according to package directions}
2 ½ cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
⅓ cup grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. {Maybe it was the hand mixer I was using, maybe it was that my squash lost more moisture in cooking, but mine was as thick as mashed potatoes. It should be thinner, about the consistency of baby food, so it will be spreadable later on. If it's too thick, add water a little at a time and continue blending to reach desired consistency. Watch Giada's video on the website if you'd like to see an example of the consistency of the puree.} Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

While the squash is cooking, melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender*. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Recipe from Giada de Laurentiis.