I love lasagna! Who doesn’t? This version was influenced by the beautiful color and taste of butternut squash and my love of a porky gravy. Traditionally you would make a classic béchamel, which in this case is replaced by a sausage and bacon gravy – I use a bit of maple breakfast sausage to add some sweetness. And I’ve replaced the classic tomato sauce with a hearty puree of butternut squash. Combined those two elements with a healthy amount of whole milk ricotta, shredded mozzarella and lots of grated parmesan and you’ll be the star at your potluck…or just make it at home and enjoy the entire thing by yourself. Leftovers are even better.
Pair with classic Tuscan Il Balzo Chianti Rufina.
Butternut Squash and Pork Lasagna
Total Time: 1 hr 15 min
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 45 min
Yields: 8 generous servings
for Butternut Squash Purée:
1.5 cups raw large diced butternut squash (24 Oz.)
1.5 cups half and half
1 cup chicken stock
3 whole cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1.5 lbs whole milk ricotta cheese
for Porky Béchamel:
6 oz smoked bacon, diced
12 oz Italian sweet sausage, ground
8 oz maple breakfast sausage, ground
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tblsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground mustard powder
20 sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup AP flour, sifted.
2.5 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half
for the Lasagna:
1 lb lasagna sheets (I buy the “no boil” sheets because its one less step, but if you want to cook your own just make sure to cook them to al dente)
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
To Make the Butternut Squash Purée:
Combine all ingredients except the ricotta in a medium sized pot. On high heat, bring mixture to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer.
Cook until the butternut squash is tender enough to purée, about 20 min. Strain the mixture and reserve the cooking liquid. You can start on the Porky Béchamel while the butternut squash is cooking.
Once the squash is cooked, transfer to a blender and blend on high, gradually adding some of the cooking liquid until a smooth purée is reached. Be careful not to add too much liquid so as to make a runny purée. You want to achieve the same consistency as a tomato sauce.
Transfer purée to a bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then mix in the ricotta cheese
To Make the Porky Béchamel:
In an 4 quart pot on medium-high heat, place the chopped bacon in the pot and render the fat, using a wooden spoon with a flat bottom, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
Add the ground sausage and continue to stir, turning the heat to high and doing the best you can to break up the sausage meat. Continue to cook the meat for another 5-7 minutes until the sausage and bacon start to get some color.
Add the onion and cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes.
Add in all of spices and chopped sage leaves and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant, stirring constantly.
Add in AP flour, stirring constantly while adding the flour. Once the flour is in the pot, stir occasionally for 5 minutes to create the base for your roux.
Add in the chicken stock and half and half, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to thicken and clumps of flour dissolve. This will take about 10 minutes. You want the mixture to be able to coat the back of a spoon. Turn off heat.
To Build the Lasagna:
Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a 13 x 9 baking dish, spread 1/3 of the béchamel to coat the bottom of the pan. Evenly place a layer of lasagna sheets on top of the sauce, not overlapping the sheets but covering all of the space. Top the pasta with a layer of butternut squash puree, half the of mozzarella, and another third of the béchamel. Repeat the same process, finishing the top layer with the grated parmesan.
Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes and allow the top to caramelize.
Let the lasagna cool slightly and serve immediately, or you can make it a day in advance and cool at room temperature. If you are reheating it for the next day, make sure to take it out of the fridge for an hour before putting it into the oven.
Spencer Hochman is a Private Chef in Sonoma County, CA who recently moved to wine country after growing up and spending the formative years of his culinary career in various well-known kitchens in NYC. He developed his market drive Italian style during his four years at L’Artusi in the West Village. With a desire to be closer to what he feels is the gastronomic heartbeat of America, Spencer’s west coast move has allowed him to be an arm’s length from some of the best farmers, fishmongers, vintners, and artisan food purveyors in the world!