Name: Ralitsa Donkova
Class Year: 2005
Country of Residence: Belgium
Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory?
Erin McCarthy (Class of 2006) and I cooked this lasagne in her tiny Brooklyn kitchen in November 2011 when I was visiting her from Minneapolis. Erin had sent me the torn-out page from Bon Appetit magazine in the mail, and I brought it back to NYC when I visited her so we can make it together.
Even though we had had the recipe for a while, it took us longer than expected to get all the ingredients. We rushed around Park Slope for two hours after work to find the right cheeses. By the time we started cooking, it was already quite late. We pushed on slaughtering the giant butternut squash and cutting it up into pieces, then roasting it, sautéing spinach and onions, boiling the noodles and making the sauce. As we progressed, we needed more and more burners, more and more pans. We drank more and more wine. By the time we assembled the lasagne and put it in the oven, it was past 9:30 and we were starving. We ended up eating toast for dinner!
The lasagne tasted great the next day for lunch, but the best part is that the lasagne has become an inside joke. Whenever Erin or I see a super complex, 12-step recipe in a magazine or the internet, we send it to each other. If there is butternut squash involved, that’s even better! Our standard for recipe complexity is “is it sub-6 hours or not?”
Erin and I live thousands of miles apart now – she lives in Massachusetts and I in Brussels – but we continue to share recipes and talk about food. During the covid-19 crisis both Erin and I have had some “sub-6-hour” cooking adventures, and talking and laughing about them together has brought us sanity.
Sub-6-hour Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne
Serves 8. Takes approx. 6+ hours…
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 1/2tcups reduced-fat (2%) milk
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
- 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 6-ounce packages baby spinach
- 2 2-lb. butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more t
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 15 no-boil 7×3 1/2-inch lasagne noodles (from two 9-ounce packages)
- 3 1/2t cups fresh ricotta cheese (28 ounces)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups coarsely grated Italian Fontina cheese (8 to 9 ounces), divided
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk 1 minute (do not brown). Add milk and wine and whisk until smooth. Cook until sauce thickens and comes to boil, whisking constantly, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in Parmesan cheese and salt. Season sauce to taste with pepper. Cover and chill.
Preheat oven to 400°. Place squash and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season generously with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat squash. Transfer to 2 rimmed baking sheets, spreading out in a single layer, overlapping slightly. Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add all spinach (pot will be full). Cook spinach until wilted but still bright green, tossing often, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer spinach to large sieve set over bowl; reserve pot. Press out excess liquid from spinach. Drain 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Return drained liquid from spinach to reserved pot. Boil until liquid is reduced to glaze. Return spinach to pot and toss 1 minute. Remove spinach from heat. Mix in 1 1/2 cups sauce. Season spinach to taste with pepper.
Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Mix ricotta, Parmesan, and lemon peel in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt. Mix in egg.
Spread 1/2 cup sauce thinly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with noodles, arranged side by side and covering most of bottom of dish. Cut the noodles if needed and use the scraps for the next layers. Spread half of spinach mixture over (about 1 1/2 cups) and half of the roasted butternut squash. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup Fontina. Top with another layer of noodles and half of ricotta mixture (generous 13/4 cups). Continue layering with noodles, remaining spinach mixture, butternut squash, 1/3 cup Fontina, more noodles, remaining ricotta mixture. Top with the last noodles. Spread remaining sauce over; sprinkle with remaining Fontina. Cover dish with buttered foil.
Bake the lasagne until heated through and bubbling at edges, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove foil from dish.
Preheat broiler. Broil lasagne until top is browned in spots, turning dish occasionally for even browning, about 4 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes to set up.
Bon Appétit magazine