When you have a little extra time on the weekend to spend in the kitchen, lasagna is the ultimate project. Lasagna is one of those dishes that doubles extremely well without doubling the work involved, in one pass on a Sunday afternoon, you can make a delicious dinner and as a bonus, have a pan of lasagna in the freezer, waiting for busy nights to come.
Most lasagnas served in the states feature copious amounts of tomato sauce, meat, and mozzarella. This lasagna, however, lacks all of those components, relying instead on a butternut squash and sage sauce, earthy mushrooms, and three flavorful cheeses (fontina, parmesan, and goat cheese) to make a satisfying meal.
What sets this lasagna apart from other mushroom lasagnas is the triple layer of duxelles amidst the squash and cheese. Mushrooms duxelles is a traditional French preparation where finely chopped mushrooms are sautéed in butter until caramelized. This packs a concentrated mushroom flavor into the lasagna without excess moisture. Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, and I love how they permeated the entire dish without any traces of rubbery texture, which can sometimes happen in a dish with a lot of moisture, such as lasagna.
After the lasagna is assembled, it’s baked in two steps: in the first baking period, the lasagna is covered to gently cook the noodles before removing the foil and baking at a higher temperature to brown the top layer of cheese.
Once the lasagna has had ten or so minutes to rest so that it becomes easier to slice and serve, dig into a big piece of butternut squash and mushroom lasagna for a special Sunday dinner.
Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna
Butternut Squash Sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into ½ inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2 whole sage leaves
2 tablespoons minced sage
½ oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup water
1 pound button mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 oz. goat cheese (fresh chevre), crumbled
4 oz. fontina, coarsely grated
1 ½ oz. (3/4 cup) parmesan, finely grated
12 (8 oz.) no boil lasagna noodles
For the butternut squash sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion and sauté until beginning to turn golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the butternut squash and salt and stir to combine. Add the water and whole sage leaves, then increase heat to medium-high, cover, and simmer vigorously until the squash is tender, 20-25 minutes. Once the squash is tender, remove the sage leaves and mash the butternut squash with a potato masher or immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the minced sage and adjust seasonings to taste.
For the mushroom duxelles:
While the squash cooks, combine the dried shiitakes and water in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high power for 3 minutes, until the water boils. Remove from the microwave and set aside for 10 minutes, to allow the mushrooms to rehydrate, then remove the mushrooms from the water and chop finely. Reserve the liquid for future use in soups or stews, if desired. While the mushrooms rehydrate, halve the button mushrooms and place them in a food processor. Pulse the mushrooms until finely chopped, about 12-15, 1 second pulses.
Heat the butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and once hot, add the chopped button mushrooms, chopped shiitakes, salt, and pepper and sauté for 15-20 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms have begun to caramelize. Adjust seasonings to taste and set aside.
To assemble and bake the lasagna:
Preheat the oven to 425F, with one rack in the middle of the oven and one rack towards the top. In a medium bowl, combine the fontina and parmesan cheese and toss to mix thoroughly. Pour 1 cup of the butternut squash sauce into the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and evenly distribute the sauce on the base of the pan. Line the bottom of the pan with 3 lasagna noodles. Top each noodle with ¼ cup sauce and spread the sauce so that it thoroughly covers each noodle. Take 1/3 of the mushroom filling and evenly distribute it on top of the noodles and sauce. Top the mushrooms with 1 oz. of the goat cheese, and ¼ of the fontina and parmesan mixture. Top with a layer of 3 noodles and repeat this layer scheme 2 more times. On the last layer, use the remaining 3 noodles, the remainder of the sauce, and the rest of the cheese to top the lasagna.
Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake, covered, until bubbling, 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 500F, and move the lasagna to the upper rack and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is beginning to turn golden brown. Remove the lasagna from the oven, and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Note: This lasagna recipe is very easily doubled. Make 2 lasagnas and freeze one for future meals. Let the lasagna defrost in the refrigerator for 2 days, then bake as directed, adding 10-15 minutes to the covered baking time to ensure that it cooks through.