I am sharing a rich and delicious recipe with you today, a very Autumnal Butternut Squash & Goat’s Cheese Lasagne. This is a fabulously enticing main dish that is sure to please everyone you serve it to. There is no meat in this lasagne, but I can promise you nobody will miss it!
Instead, this visually appealing casserole is filled with a lush filling of butternut squash which is pan-roasted along with onions, until golden brown, and then folded together with chopped toasted walnuts and an earthy fresh herb and garlic mixture. So delicious. Add to that three kinds of cheeses and you have a wonderfully satisfying lasagne that is sure to please both the eyes and the palate!
Like any good lasagne, this does take a bit of time and effort to put together, but I can promise you that if you break it down into several steps, it goes together very easily and quickly at the end. You can also assemble everything up to the point of baking on the day before you want to serve it, covering and chilling it overnight, which makes it an ideal dinner party dish!
Gathering All the Ingredients
How to Make Bechamel
The first thing I like to do is to make the bechamel sauce. Bechamel is one of the first sauces that I learnt to make when I was in culinary college. A proper bechamel sauce is probably one of the most basic and easiest sauces to make. It’s a skill that every cook should master and is the basis for many other sauces.
Bechamel is a white sauce which is made by combining hot flavoured or seasoned milk with a roux (a roux is a mix of melted butter and flour).
One of the basic sauces, the classic recipe calls for milk which has been infused with flavour by heating it with a bay leaf, slice of onion and a blade of mace or nutmeg, and perhaps some garlic and a sprig of parsley.
This is left to sit for about half an hour so that the milk absorbs the flavours of these aromatics. It is strained and then mixed and thickened with a roux.
The butter is melted over moderate heat and then flour is whisked in. This is cooked out for several minutes without allowing it to brown, and then the infused milk is whisked in, whereupon the whole mixture is cooked, whilst stirring, until the sauce bubbles and begins to thicken.
Growing up I always thought this was the end of the sauce, but in culinary school I learned that you then turn the heat down to very low and allow it to cook for a further time, stirring it only occasionally to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom. This is what really helps to develop the rich flavours of this beautiful sauce.
Cutting the Butternut Squash
The squash I have chosen to use for this lasagne is the Butternut Squash. This is a squash which is widely available. With its sweet dense and bright orange flesh, it is perfect for dishes such as this, where it truly stands out and shines.
All squashes have a very thick and hard skin, which needs to be removed prior to using it for something like a lasagne. You will need a very sharp knife for this as they are very hard.
I cut a thin slice from the top and the bottom of the squash. Then, holding it upright with one hand on a flat surface, I bring my knife down through the centre of the squash cutting it into two halves.
Once you have done this it is very easy to scoop out the seeds and cut the squash into more manageable pieces for peeling. A melon baller does a short work of scooping out the seeds and a quality vegetable peeler will remove the peel quite efficiently.
The easiest way I find to do this is to cut the squash into quarters and then into eighths. Then I cut it into ½ inch sticks and then cutting them crosswise into the ½ inch pieces needed for this recipe.
Sautéing the Squash and Onions
You will also need one largish onion, which you can peel and dice into ½ inch pieces as well. These will be sautéed together in a large skillet with a bit of olive oil.
I find for this purpose a fairly large non-stick skillet is the best kind to use as it gives your vegetables more surface for them to spread out on and they will actually cook and gild, rather than stew, which you really don’t want them to do.
Make sure your oil is well heated before adding the vegetables. That way they cook “in” the oil rather than absorbing it. You will need to stay with it while you are doing this first part as it is sautéed for a time over high heat, just until the squash and onion begin to soften. You will want to be stirring it frequently so that it doesn’t burn.
This isn’t really a problem as your bechamel will probably be on the burner next to it and you need to be paying a bit of attention to it at the same time and giving it a stir every now and again also.
Once it has begun to soften and turn a bit golden in areas, you can turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook it for a bit longer, until it is nicely softened and a lovely rich colour of golden brown.
You only need to stir it occasionally while you are doing this. Your bechamel should also be finished by now, so you can take it off the heat, whisk in any seasonings and then cover it and set it aside.
Making the Herb and Nut Mixture
While the squash is finishing off you can be sorting out your herb and nut mixture for the filling.
I use toasted walnuts for this that I then chop finely with my nut chopper. Toasting nuts prior to using them always helps to enhance their nuttiness. You can easily toast them by putting them onto a baking tray and roasting them in a hot oven (400°F) for 5 to 7 minutes. My rule of thumb is when I start to smell them, they are done. Do keep an eye on them so that they don’t burn.
Another vital part of the flavour mixture is the mixture of chopped parsley, sage and garlic.
Once again, you will need a sharp knife. I cut the garlic into small bits and then start chopping it together with the herbs, using a rocking motion with my knife, passing it up and down and back and forth over the mixture in a quick motion. It doesn’t take very long. You don’t want it to be ultra-fine or a paste. You will want it to have a bit of texture.
Checking the Squash
By now the squash and onion mixture should be perfectly softened and lightly caramelised in places, their natural sweetness having been greatly enhanced.
Remove it from the heat and stir in the chopped nuts and the herb mixture, combining everything thoroughly together. Your filling is made. You can set that aside with the bechamel sauce.
Its time to get the cheese ready. Every good lasagne holds a tasty measure of cheese.
For this one I use three cheeses:
First a good Gruyere cheese. Gruyere cheese has a rich nuttiness that goes very well with the sweetness of the squash. It also has great melting properties.
If you cannot get Gruyere Cheese you can use any other Swiss Cheese, but I really hope you can get your hands on some Gruyere. It is worth every penny.
In addition, I use a quantity of Parmesan Cheese and some soft creamy goats’ cheese.
I like to grate my own cheeses. A good Parmigiano Reggiano is what I use here. I grate my Gruyere on my box grater, and I grate my Parmesan with my fine micro-plane grater. If your cheese is fresh this won’t take long.
You will also need some soft goat’s cheese. Not in a rind. It looks soft just like a cream cheese. This has a lovely rich flavour that will go well with the sweet nuttiness of the Gruyere and the sharp saltiness of the Parmesan. You will just be crumbling this into the lasagne.
Let’s Talk Lasagne Noodles
For lasagne noodles I have chosen to use flat noodles which you have no need to cook first.
Over here in the UK Lasagne noodles come in large flat sheets. Oh, I do miss the ruffle edged lasagne from home in Canada, but you just must use what you have available. You are free to use any kind of lasagne noodle which doesn’t require pre-boiling.
I think fresh is best if you can get it. Of course, if you are really keen, you can make your own from scratch! I am not that keen and am quite happy using a good quality store-bought fresh lasagne sheets.
You are now ready to assemble your lasagne! Whew!
Assembling the Whole Thing!
I like to start by applying a layer of the bechamel onto the bottom of the baking dish and begin layering from there. You will be making approximately two layers of filling and three of noodles and four of sauce, so plan accordingly.
On top of the bottom layer of sauce you want to lay one layer of noodles, then ½ of the butternut squash mixture, 1/3 of the remaining sauce and some cheese, repeating these layers once. You put approximately ½ of the Gruyere and the goat’s cheese on each layer and 1/3 of the Parmesan.
You will want to save some sauce for slathering on top and some Parmesan to sprinkle on top as well. The layers should go like this from the bottom of the dish:
If you are making it a day ahead, you can cover it and put it into the refrigerator now.
Now into the Oven!
When you go to cook it, tent it lightly with a sheet of aluminium foil which has been sprayed with non-stick low-fat cooking spray, just to make sure that nothing sticks to the foil.
This cooks for half an hour in a hot oven (375°F). Remove the foil and bake it for a further 20 minutes and dinner is served!
Now doesn’t that look delicious! It also smells really fabulous. Its rich and oozing with cheese and beautiful flavours. I like to serve it with a simple rocket salad on the side. I really hope you will make this fabulous recipe. It’s a real winner of a dinner and worth every ounce of effort taken.
Butternut Squash & Goat’s Cheese Lasagne Short Recipe
This delicious lasagne can be prepared right up to the point of baking a day ahead of time. Just cover and refrigerate until needed. This makes it a great recipe to use when you are entertaining.
- For the Bechamel:
- 3 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and bruised
- 1 thick slice of peeled onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of fresh parsley
- 3 ½ tbsp butter
- 3 ½ tbsp flour
- Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
- ½ tsp sat
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- For the filling:
- 1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds in weight)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 ½ tbsp dried sage
- ½ cup packed fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup crumbled soft goat’s cheese
- You will also need:
- ½ pound (8 ounces) no boil lasagne noodles
- First make the bechamel. Put the milk, garlic, slice of onion, bay leaf and parsley sprig into a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer. Cover and remove from the heat. Set aside to infuse the milk with the flavours of the aromatics.
- Melt the butter for the bechamel in a saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring, for about one minute.
- Strain the milk and slowly whisk it into the saucepan until the mixture is smooth and beginning to thicken. Reduce to a very low temperature and simmer for about 15 minutes until the flour is well cooked and the sauce is nicely thickened, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with ½ tsp salt, some black pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg.
- To make the filling:
- Peel the butternut squash and dice it into ½ inch sized cubes.
- Chop two of the garlic cloves together with the parsley. Mix together with the sage.
- Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and chopped squash. Cook over high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Reduce the temperature to medium and cook for a further 10 minutes or so, until the squash is fairly tender and beginning to caramelise in a few spots.
- Stir in the garlic herb mixture along with the chopped nuts. Cook for a few minutes longer and then remove to a bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Assemble the lasagne:
- Butter a 9 by 12-inch baking dish.
- Spread ½ cup of the bechamel in the dish.
- Lay 1/3 of the noodles over top.
- Cover these with half of the squash mixture.
- Spoon over 1 cup more of the bechamel.
- Sprinkle half of the gruyere cheese and 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese and ½ of the goat’s cheese.
- Repeat steps 4 to 6 once.
- Finish off with the remaining noodles (3rd layer).
- Spread the remaining sauce over top and then sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Spray a sheet of tinfoil with some non-stick cooking spray and loosely tent the baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven for about half an hour.
- Remove the foil and bake for 20 minutes longer until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 10 minutes.
A simple salad goes well with this. Whisk together 2 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp wholegrain mustard and 1 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Use this to dress 4 cups of baby arugula leaves tossed together with ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds.
Complete Steps in Pictures
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Marie Rayner is a Canadian, who moved over to the UK and began a new life in the year 2000. At the age of 45 she decided she needed a career change and went back to College to take a Chef’s course, after which she worked as a Personel Chef for a number of years.