Cozy Sunday Vegetable Lasagna

Since the beginning of the year, it’s been a mission of mine to eat smarter and to put away the cookies I had been accustomed to treating myself to these last few years. I wasn’t a huge sweets person before I had my son, but since then, I craved sweets in massive quantities: I finally learned to appreciate ice cream and I used to justify it as needing extra sugar to be able to make milk but since that hasn’t been the case in many months, I really had to start to get a better control on my sweet tooth! Recovery is a slow process is all I can say.

Since I am already being SO good, why not treat myself this weekend to a beautiful, cheesy, and saucy veggie-filled lasagna with a creamy Béchamel and a butternut squash purée? It’s really not that hard to twist my arm, is it?

Looking back, few things were as memorable to me as being in the kitchen with my mom, making meals together. It was the best occasion to talk and to catch up with each other, especially as I got older and became busier. My little chef has been showing interest in learning some kitchen skills and having him there has triggered memories I haven’t had the occasion to recall in some time. It’s another reason why I strongly believe that cooking nourishes us in so many different ways.

This recipe will take time, but it’s completely worth it. And don’t forget, I called it Sunday Lasagna for a reason. The little ones can help assemble the lasagna, because I know they’re clamoring to get into the kitchen to use your pots as a drum set as you’re trying to get out and enjoy the sun before it sets.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.

Arrange both halves on a baking sheet, cut side down. Roast for approximately 20-30 minutes, until you can pierce the flesh easily with a fork. Scoop out the squash into a food processor, leaving behind the outer skin.

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Add roughly 1/4 cup hot liquid to the squash, plus a half teaspoon salt and oregano, two tablespoons of olive oil, and black pepper. Process until the mixture is a smooth puree. Set aside and let cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

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Now, make the Bechamel sauce: Warm 4 cups of milk in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, melt 5 tablespoons butter in a medium-sized saucepan until bubbly. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of flour over the melted butter and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes, whisking all the while, until the mixture starts to brown slightly. Working quickly, add the hot milk in a steady stream until all of it is incorporated (all while whisking enthusiastically) and keep stirring until it has thickened. Remove from the heat. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, a pinch of nutmeg and cayenne powder and stir well. Set aside.

Chop the asparagus, carrots, onions, garlic, and parsley and arrange on a plate for portability to the cooking pot. Grate a cup of mozzarella and a half cup of Parmesan into a bowl.

Melt a tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet. Briefly sauté the vegetables and remove from the heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped parsley.

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Butter a casserole or a 9×13 Pyrex dish. Begin by adding some of the Bechamel sauce to the bottom of the pan, then add a layer of noodles. I use oven-ready lasagna noodles, just to save time and hassle.

On top of the noodles, spoon out some of the butternut squash sauce and Bechamel sauce and spread evenly. Sprinkle a layer of vegetables, then add several dollops of Ricotta cheese, then a layer of shredded mozzarella. Repeat three more times. Add a half cup to 3/4 cup of bread crumbs over the top.

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Bake, uncovered for 45-55 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Serve with a light garden salad and your Sunday dinner plans are done.

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What are your favorite Sunday lasagnas?

Cozy Sunday Vegetable Lasagna

For the butternut squash sauce:
1/2 roasted butternut squash
1/4 cup hot water or chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
pinch black pepper

For the Bechamel sauce:

5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper powder

1 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Mixed chopped seasonal vegetables, 2 cups (I used asparagus, onion, carrots, and peas)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 medium-sized garlic clove
1 package oven-ready lasagna noodles
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs (I used leftover bread slices, toasted them with some olive oil, and pulsed them in the food processor)

Make the butternut squash sauce: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.

Arrange both halves on a baking sheet, cut side down. Roast for approximately 20-30 minutes, until you can pierce the flesh easily with a fork. Scoop out the squash into a food processor, leaving behind the outer skin. (You’ll only use one of the halves for this recipe-put the other half back for another recipe!)

Add roughly 1/4 cup hot liquid to the squash, plus a half teaspoon salt and oregano, two tablespoons of olive oil, and black pepper. Process until the mixture is a smooth puree. Set aside and let cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

Now, make the Bechamel sauce: Warm 4 cups of milk in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, melt 5 tablespoons butter in a medium-sized saucepan until bubbly. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of flour over the melted butter and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes, whisking all the while, until the mixture starts to brown slightly. Working quickly, add the hot milk in a steady stream until all of it is incorporated (all while whisking enthusiastically) and keep stirring until it has thickened. Remove from the heat. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, a pinch of nutmeg and cayenne powder and stir well. Set aside.

Chop the asparagus, carrots, onions, garlic, and parsley and arrange on a plate for portability to the cooking pot. Grate a cup of mozzarella and a half cup of Parmesan into a bowl.

Melt a tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet. Briefly sauté the vegetables and remove from the heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped parsley.

Butter a casserole or a 9×13 Pyrex dish. Begin by adding some of the Bechamel sauce to the bottom of the pan, then add a layer of noodles. I use oven-ready lasagna noodles, just to save time and hassle.

On top of the noodles, spoon out some of the butternut squash sauce and Bechamel sauce and spread evenly. Sprinkle a layer of vegetables, then add several dollops of Ricotta cheese, then a layer of shredded mozzarella. Repeat three more times. Add a half cup to 3/4 cup of bread crumbs over the top.

Bake, uncovered for 45-55 minutes, until browned and bubbly.

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