Butternut Squash Lasagna

This seasonal gourd is filling, comforting, healthy and versatile! Use it to create this cool-season lasagna as a tasty, lighter alternative. 

Story and Photography by Kerry Guice

Butternut Squash Lasagna Recipe
 

Fall has arrived! I know, I know, it actually started in September, but here in Arkansas it stays too warm to break out the boots and pumpkin spice lattes until October, when the leaves start changing and the air starts to smell like autumn. One of my favorite seasonal veggies this time of year is butternut squash (it’s what fills the void in my heart when the last of the summer tomatoes are gone). I can chop it up, roast it and throw it in my salad; I can make a low-fat creamy soup that’s perfect for a cool rainy day; I can slice the bulb, take the seeds out and fry an egg in the middle for a unique “egg-in-a-hole”; or I can slice it into “noodles” to make this low-carb, gluten-free lasagna that will impress friends and family!

I’ve been avoiding wheat for six months now, after finding out that my body doesn’t like it, so this is one of my favorite dishes to make. It’s a meal everyone will love, so I don’t feel like a high-maintenance eater who’s just trying to push my diet onto my carb/pasta/gluten-loving friends and family! I call that a win/win.

When slicing butternut squash, be so very careful! Use your best sharp knife and slice slowly, paying attention to where your fingers are. This squash has tough skin, and can cause a dull knife or peeler to slip rather easily (trust me on this one)! This meal would definitely not be a good first time to teach your kids knife skills. Instead, it would be a great time to teach your kids “try new things” skills!

I add mushrooms to this recipe, and sometimes I add sun-dried tomatoes. Feel free to leave the mushrooms out, or swap the spinach for kale. Even though I call this “lasagna,” it’s certainly “casserole” enough to make a perfect addition to any upcoming holiday dinner gathering!

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 3-lb. butternut squash (look for one with a large neck)
Pinch salt and pepper
Coconut oil cooking spray (or olive oil)
1 lb. Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon each of fresh sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano, chopped
2 cups packed fresh spinach leaves (or kale)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
⅔ cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray (I use coconut oil). Carefully cut the butternut squash where the neck meets the bulb (save the bulb to use in a different recipe—don’t waste it!). Peel the skin off the squash with a very sharp knife by holding it flat on the cutting board (perpendicular to the board), and slicing the peel off. When peeled, lay it long-ways on the cutting board, making sure that it’s stable on a flat side. Carefully cut it long-ways into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices, so it resembles lasagna noodles. You’ll need about nine slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and lay on baking sheet. Spray top with a little more cooking spray, and bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, just until the squash bends (like a lasagna noodle). Keep oven on for the lasagna.

While the squash is cooking, brown Italian sausage, onions, garlic, mushrooms and herbs in a medium to large pot (I prefer cast iron) on medium-high heat. When sausage is browned, reduce heat to medium-low and add the spinach (or kale), cream cheese, chicken stock, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheeses (reserve . cup for the top) and the milk (add milk last). Stir to combine on medium-low until cheeses are melted and smooth and sauce is thickened.

In an 8-inch square baking dish, ladle about one cup of the Italian sausage mixture into the bottom of the pan, followed by a layer of the butternut squash “noodles.” Repeat layers until you use up all the squash, with the top layer being the Italian sausage mixture. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese, place baking dish on a larger baking sheet lined with foil to prevent oven spills, and bake uncovered in 375-degree oven for 45 minutes, until cheese is browned and bubbly on top. Let cool at least 15 minutes or so for easier slicing (sauce will thicken as it cools).