Friday, January 6, 2012

Squash and Spinach Veggie Lasagna!

Looking for something to cook up this Sunday that will get you halfway through the week?  The whole family ate this for dinner twice, then me and the hubs ate it a third time, and still left enough for two lunch-sized portions, not to mention the second, smaller one we've got stashed in the freezer!

I have made this lasagna twice now.  The first time, I made it pretty much by the recipe (originally from Cooking Light, although I found it here), and while it was good (I actually got requests for the recipe), I felt that a few tweaks would turn it into something just about perfect.  

Then those tweaks turned into more of a reworking.  So much that if you wanted to make my lasagna, the orgininal recipe would probably not help you much at all.

So I decided to write it down for you.  Although I only took pictures of it once it was done.

All sliced up and ready to go.

Spinach and Squash Veggie Lasagna, Sponsored By Trader Joe's.  (Not really, but I wish!)

Ingredients:  
1+ boxes no-cook lasagna noodles* (I like the way the square shape fits in my pans--I use a total of 21 noodles, and there are usually 15 in a box)
2 3-cup jars tomato sauce* (I usually use tomato basil, but the first time I made this I made my own sauce using tomatoes I had roasted and it was AWESOME.)
Squash (I have made this with butternut, delicata, and acorn squash, all work well) (4-5 cups cubed)
1 Tb butter

1 tsp minced garlic
1 10oz package baby spinach*
1 smallish onion, diced small
1 32oz container of ricotta
1 package of TJ’s Quattro Formaggio* (divided)
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley and basil work well)
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
About 1/2 cup grated parmesan*


*Starred items are things I buy at Trader Joe's.


Hot out of the oven

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2.  Chop the end off the squash so you can set it on its end and cut it in half.  Scoop out the guts and place face-down on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. Or if you’re like me, and you think, “I’m already making a LASAGNA, which takes about an hour just to COOK, how much more planning ahead do you want from me?  Then place in microwave safe dish with about a quarter inch of water, cover with plastic wrap and steam until you can easily peel it  It doesn't need to be cooked all the way, just softened so you can take the peel off.  I do it in two-minute increments and check, and it takes 8 minutes or so, while I’m doing other things like sautéing the spinach and mixing the cheeses.  Then peel and cut into 1-inch cubes.  While microwaving, move on to the next steps.

3.  In a large pan (I use my wok), sautee 1 Tb butter over medium heat (Your first indication that this is no longer a Cooking Light recipe).  Once it's melted, throw in the garlic for about 30 seconds then add the onions. Sautee until translucent, then add the spinach a few handfuls at a time, letting it wilt to make room for more spinach.  Use a wooden spoon to distribute the onions and get that spinach wilted down.

3.  In a large bowl, lightly beat the two eggs, then add your ricotta and a big handful of Quattro Formaggio or other shredded cheese (provolone, mozzerella, fontina, what have you)--about a cup or so.  Stir in salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, then fold your chopped herbs in gently to keep the whole mixture from turning green!

4.  Now you're ready to layer this baby into your pans! This recipe makes one 11x17 lasagna plus a smaller one.  An 8x8 or 9x9 pan would work, I have a 6x9 pan that's about perfect.
Cheeeeeeesy.
Start with a thin smear of tomato sauce on the bottom of each pan.  Then lay out your first layer of noodles (I do four noodles in the big pan, three in the small one).  Then comes the ricotta cheese layer.  There will be two cheese layers in each pan, so divide yours up accordingly.  Then sprinkle on your cubed squash--it's all in this one layer so don't be shy.  On top of that spread a healthy amount of tomato sauce.  Then comes your next layer of noodles.  Then cheese again, topped with spinach.  I like to use my hands to get the spinach and onions evenly distributed.  Tomato sauce again on top of the spinach, then noodles again, then more red sauce, then top with a healthy layer of the Quattro Formaggio, and sprinkle that with grated parmesan.  See all that cheese in my version?  Yeah, that's not in the Cooking Light version either.

Since that's a little tough to wade through, here's a layer-by-layer breakdown:

1. thin layer of sauce
2. noodles
3. ricotta
4. squash
5. sauce
6. noodles
7. ricotta
8.  spinach
9. sauce
10. noodles
11. sauce
12. shredded cheese
13. grated parmesan


Put the big one in the oven at 375 so you have lots of leftovers for this week and feel good about cooking a great big lasagna and not having to worry about dinner for a couple of days.  Put tinfoil on top of the little one and stick it in the freezer so you can pull it out when you don’t want to go to the store (it might last one dinner and a lunch).  I freeze my little one uncooked, I think it gets less soggy that way, you just have to cook it for a long long time (like 1.5-2 hours, still at 375.  Or you can take it out to thaw the night before, but who ever remembers to do that?)

I think I like lasagna better when it isn’t an exact science, but if you are an exact science type of person you probably want to check out the links to the original recipe at the beginning of this post.

This was taken day 2, before reheating,
but I liked how the layers were so visible when it's cold.

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