Winter Lasagna



Holidays mean making those dishes that take a little more time, a little more care, a little more of everything.  Homemade pasta is exactly that dish for me.

My holiday list dragging to the floor like a cliched cartoon, I took the time yesterday morning to make this lasagna.  It was the best holiday medicine I could have taken.


Making pasta is one of the most satisfying culinary processes there is:  it’s beautiful from start to finish – rolling the butter-yellow dough through the chrome machine, all those trays of drying noodles, the stratified layers of pasta and fillings.  But it takes time – you can only crank so fast.   It takes space – everything else gets moved to the floor.  You shuffle, you move things, you shuffle again.  There are suddenly trays of noodles all over your house.


Whenever I make homemade pasta I think of Stefania, by best friend even though she lives in Italy and we rarely see each other.  Stefania taught me everything I know about making pasta, so it’s good for me to do it if only to recall the wonderful times we’ve shared making lasagna noodles together.

The lasagna process was all zen, requiring focus and calm, and allowing time for happy memories, exactly what my skittering pulse needed.

The lasagna itself was adapted from an Epicurious recipe:  my last CSA root vegetables sauteed to sweetness, then lifted from “earthy” to elegant with a few cups of toasted hazelnuts.   Feel free to use only butternut squash, as the original recipe required, or feel free to adapt with other vegetables; it’s begging for parsnips

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and hope you make just one dish this season that slows you down, makes you think about someone you love and the happy times you had together.


Winter Lasagna




For squash filling:

1 large onion, chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

2 small celery root, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (optional)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped, loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel, and coarsely chopped

For the sauce:

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

5 cups milk

1 bay leaf (not California)

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

To assemble lasagna:

1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)

12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (1/2 lb) or homemade lasagna noodles


Make filling:
Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add root vegetables, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cooks:
Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagna in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.




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