A piping hot baking dish stuffed with layers of pasta, a creamy filling of Béchamel topped with roasted butternut squash, Italian sausage and melted mozzarella. This butternut squash lasagna is definitely one of the best lasagna I’ve made in a while. Are you hungry yet?
Lasagna in Italy is a staple, a classic. Something every mom, every grandma, most women (and some men) make several times in their life. Some of them stick to the classic every single time, while some like me like to try every flavor combination.
Because lasagne are always good, no matter what you put inside. You could stuff them with old socks and would still be good (Ok, maybe that’s a stretch). The creamy filling, the crunchy crust, the cheese, the pasta. What’s not to love?
The combination of pumpkin and sausage is a classic. The saltiness and fattiness of the sausage, complement wonderfully the sweetness of the pumpkin. When I found at the Italian market these beautiful Italian Calabrese sausages with sweet paprika, I knew what I had to do. And this butternut squash lasagna recipe was born. You can use any type of sausage: spicy, with black pepper, with herbs, just as long as it’s not too sweet.
The theory behind a perfect Lasagna
Making a lasagna may seems pretty easy, layer after layer until the pan is full. There is a lot of thinking behind how the layers are constructed.
- The first layer. The first layer should always be a layer of sauce only. Either white or tomato it doesn’t matter, as long as the sauce evenly coats the bottom of the dish. This is to prevent the pasta from sticking to the dish.
- The Pasta. You can either use dried pasta or fresh pasta. In both cases, you can use it raw to layer the lasagna or blanch it first. If you use the dried pasta raw, make sure there is enough sauce to cover them so they can cook evenly. If you want to make sure they don’t come out al dente, boil the pasta sheets for 1-2 minutes then set them on a clean towel to rest until you need to use them (don’t overlap them otherwise they’ll stick).
- The Sauce. The sauce can be either Bèchamel (also called White Sauce) or tomato based like Ragù (also called Bolognese Sauce) or both of them together (which is how a classic Lasagna is made).
- The Cheese. In each layer you can add some cheese which melt nicely like Mozzarella or Scamorza. Although, in every version of Lasagne, including the traditional version, is customary to add a sprinkle of Parmigiano cheese on each layer. In the South of Italy is also used Ricotta cheese, especially in the Neapolitan Lasagne recipe.
- The Layers. To be called a real Lasagna, it should have at least 4-5 layers. This is not up for discussion. Each layer should have the same amount of sauce, cheese and any other ingredients. After you make each layer, press with your hands gently on the pasta sheets to remove the air and compact the layers. This will give you more room in the pan to make more layers!
- The final layer. The very final layer of a Lasagna should always have a generous amount of grated Parmigiano cheese. The cheese will make a nice bubbly and crunchy crust which in my opinion is the best part of the dish.
Butternut Squash and Italian Sausage Lasagna
- 1 Butternut Squash
- EV Olive Oil
- 1/2 tsp Thyme
- 1/2 tsp Oregano
- 250 g (9 oz) Fresh or Dried Lasagne sheets
- 4 Italian Sausages
- 2 Mozzarella balls shredded
- Parmigiano cheese grated
- Black Pepper
For the Béchamel:
- 100 g (2/3 cup) Butter
- 100 g (7/8 cup) Flour
- 1 l (4 cups) Whole Milk room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F).
- Peel the butternut squash, cut in half, remove the seeds and chop into small cubes.
- Spread the squash cubes on a baking tray, then drizzle some olive oil, add the thyme, oregano, salt and black pepper. Mix well with your hands until it’s all evenly coated.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove the sausages from their cases and break them in a non-stick pan. Cook for 10-15 minutes at medium heat continuing breaking them with a wooden spoon. Then set aside.
- At the same time, you can make the béchamel. In a large pot melt the butter at medium heat. When fully melted, add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon for a minute or two to make the roux. Add the milk and mix well until the roux is completely dissolved.
- Bring to boil then turn down the heat and let it simmer until it becomes creamy and can coat the spoon. Mix every so often to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- When you have the right consistency of béchamel, season with salt, black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- When the butternut squash is ready, remove it from the oven and turn the oven down to 190°C (375°F).
Assembly the Lasagna:
- Use a square or rectangular baking dish, I used a 20×20 cm (8×8”). Add a layer of sauce, then add a layer of pasta and another layer of béchamel sauce.
- Add the sausage crumbles and the butternut squash cubes, do not add too much filling, it should be spread out. Add some mozzarella cheese and some Parmigiano. Then start again with the pasta layer. Repeat until the dish is full.
- As final layer sprinkle a generous amount of Parmigiano cheese, to get a nice crust.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes (also check the packaging directions of your pasta). If the crust starts browning too early, cover with aluminum foil.
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