I have tried my best to stay positive this past week. The realization of Hurricane Sandy is too much to comprehend. I may be on the opposite side of the country but the majority of my family and friends are still there and dealing with the brunt of the aftermath. I will admit the majority of them fared quite well. They still have roofs over their heads and working water; but they were without electricity, phone, and cable for the majority of the week. But not being in touch with them for days was excruciating. The amazing thing through all of this is those who have reached out to my husband and I to see if our family and friends were okay. The phone has been buzzing, calls and texts checking in to see what we know. We heard from friends in California, my mom’s best friend in Florida, friends from Arizona, not to mention the Tri-State Area. If people could not get through to family there they contacted us to see what we knew. What I found real sincere was when I walked into a local coffee shop this week and the barista right away asked for my family. Said he remember meeting them while they were visiting us and had been thinking of them. We are so lucky to have so much love and care even at a distance.
I found myself in my kitchen on this past Wednesday looking at a Butternut Squash I had on the counter. I was upset looking at it thinking how I have still not heard from many of my family. The next thing I realize I am prepping to make lasagna with it. I knew it would keep me busy for a while and keep my mind off of what occurred. Besides keeping me busy it is a real warm, deliciously comforting dish. Just what the mood ordered. Now this is not one of my own recipes, I got it from the cookbook Giada’s Family Dinners by Giada De Laurentiis. (We have several of her books and even got them signed – my husband has admitted to having a little crush on her!) I have made variations over time, but I will admit the dish is just perfect the way it is, no adjustments necessary…well, sometimes I do add more basil. In my opinion you can never have too much basil!
I was half way through making it when I realized I have made this recipe time and time again for all of our family. I know I have made it for my in-laws when they have visited us over the years. They were happy to see that I made it again for them on one of their return visits. I made it for my parents not knowing if they would care for it. To my surprise when I came home from work my mom was heating up the leftovers for lunch. She said to me “I hope you don’t mind. Daddy and I loved it and we wanted to leftovers – there is only enough for two!?!” So maybe it was a subconscious thing that made me compose this dish? I will never really know. What I do know is I know I cannot wait to have all of my family together again. Maybe I will make this dish again for them, you never know.
Butternut Squash Lasagna (Serves 8)
From Giada's Family Dinners - Giada De Laurentiis
1 Butternut Squash (about 1 ½ - 2 lbs.)
1 tbsp of olive oil
3 ½ cups of milk
¼ cup of butter (plus more for your pan)
¼ cup of flour
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
¾ cup of fresh basil leaves
3 amoretti cookies (crumbled)
8 oz of mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/3 cup of Parmesan (freshly grated)
Sea Salt and Black Pepper (freshly ground)
1 box of no boil lasagna noodl
First, in a 4 quart pot melt your butter over medium heat and then add in the flour. Mix it into a paste and let it begin to sizzle and bubble while constantly stirring not letting it stick. With a whisk, easily pour in your milk whisking it constantly until your butter and flour are incorporated. Sprinkle in your nutmeg while stirring it occasionally. Once your milk mixture is heated through and starts to thicken you can remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
Next, trim and peel your butternut squash. Slice it and chop into evenly sized cubes. Place it all into a 4 – 6 quart pot with about a cup of water. Sprinkle it with your salt and pepper and place it over medium heat. You want to steam the squash until it is tender and cool slightly. Place your cooled butternut squash in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Begin to pulse your squash and break it down. Adding in a bit of the steaming liquid if your feel your puree is too thick. Add in the amoretti cookies pulse once more.
Meanwhile, place your basil leaves in a blender and pour your milk mixture over it. Blend it all together until your mixture is a lovely shade of green and set aside.
Then, you can form your lasagna. Butter a 9 by 13 inch pan. Place a small amount of your basil milk mixture to coat the bottom of your pan. Place 3 – 4 lasagna sheets across it. Gently spread about 1.2 your butternut squash mixture over the lasagna sheets. Cover that with another layer of lasagna sheets and top that with ½ your basil sauce. Cover that with a layer of mozzarella and sprinkle that with a bit of parmesan. Then repeat it all again; lasagna, butternut squash, lasagna, basil sauce and top it all off with the remaining cheese.
Finally, cover your pan with foil and place on a sheet pan into a 375 degree oven. Bake it for 30 minutes, and then remove the foil and bake for a remaining 15 – 20 minutes. You are looking for you pan to be bubbling and the cheese topping to be browned. Remove from the oven and let cool about 15 minutes before serving. Slice and enjoy.