When I first started cooking, I thought lasagna was something that supposedly was pretty simple to make. I found out I was wrong. First you have to brown the meat, boil the noodles, mix your ricotta, and finally layer the whole thing together before baking it in the oven. Grant it, you can make it ahead of time. But really people, there is some work involved. Plus, I don't really enjoy runny lasagna. You know the kind where the sauce never thickened and the tomato juices just drip and form a funky puddle on your plate? The first time I made lasagna, it ended up tasting fairly bland and unexciting. Of course my skills have sharpened significantly over the last ten years and I've learned a few tricks. Here is what I assembled over the weekend and will be enjoying this evening when the Bear comes home.
When I make lasagna, I never boil the noodles. This is because the noodles absorb a lot of the additional moisture from the sauce and other ingredients. In this lovely gluten-free, vegetarian tribute to fall I've layered creamy pureed butternut squash, ricotta mixed with a little spinach and Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella. The sauce you ask? A little milk thickened with a softened brick of 1/3 less fat cream cheese. I also suggest taking a few shortcuts by purchasing a couple of boxes of frozen pureed butternut squash so you are not having to peel, chop, cook, and puree your own from scratch. If you cannot find your squash already pureed, buy the frozen chopped kind, thaw, and puree yourself in a blender or food processor. This recipe is so worth it!
No Boiling Butternut Squash Lasagna
1 box brown rice lasagna noodles (or regular lasagna noodles if you are not GF)
2 boxes frozen cooked winter squash, thawed
1 yellow or white onion, finely diced
1 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup egg substitute or 1 beaten egg
2 cups shredded 2% mozzarella
1 cup 2% milk
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
Spray a casserole dish or lasagna pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In a bowl, mix together the thawed squash and onion until incorporated and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, garlic poser, and egg until incorporated and set aside. In another bowl, whisk the milk and cream cheese until smooth and set aside. In the casserole dish or lasagna pan, ladle 1/4 cup of the milk mixture into the bottom of the dish or pan. Arrange 3-4 of the noodles (depending on the size of your pan) on top of the milk mixture. Spread 1/2 of the squash mixture on top of the noodles, followed by 1/2 of the ricotta cheese and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Arrange your second layer of noodles over the mozzarella followed by the remaining squash layer, ricotta layer, and remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Pour the rest of the milk mixture over the lasagna. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight or until you are ready to bake and serve. When you are ready to bake and serve, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and set the lasagna out at room temperature while the oven is preheating. Place in the oven after your oven is finished preheating and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the top is beginning to turn bubbly and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Fortunately, this has made a lot of lasagna! This is great because we will be enjoying this all week due to Justin's slow pitch softball and our big appointment with our specialist on Thursday. We will be finding out some more results and our plan to making a family. I'm a little overwhelmed and nervous, but very excited. I'll keep you all posted on our journey:)
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