I’ve never made lasagna and to be clear, I’ve never had the slightest desire to make it – even coming from an Italian family who loves Italian food. The idea of lasagna seemed complicated and exhausting and I’d find myself thinking, “Why bother”? Most of my food for so many years has been about ease and convenience because I barely had the energy to boil water but now, it’s time for a whole new way for me to cook and actually enjoy my food.
There’s something so comforting and delicious about pureed squash because it gets so thick and creamy. Whether you’re using it for a soup, sauce or this lasagna recipe, pureed squash feels like a big warm hug when it’s freezing in Manhattan and that’s exactly what I needed with these chilly temperatures the last few weeks.
For this recipe, you’ll need a large butternut squash, your favorite lasagna noodles and walnuts along with a few other odds and ends. We’re roasting the squash until it’s tender and pureeing it in a food processor. While the squash is in the oven, we’re making the ricotta cheese, dairy-free, of course, with walnuts and a few other ingredients in a mini food processor. Then, we’re layering the squash, the walnut ricotta and the noddles in a baking dish and tossing it into the oven until it’s bubbling and golden brown.
The cumin dusted butternut squash, creamy walnut ricotta, slightly charred caramelized onions, tender noodles and a few flecks of fresh oregano all piled onto my fork was nothing short of the greatest comfort food I’ve ever made. I think you’ll agree.
When you’re buying butternut squash, make sure you purchase a squash that feels heavy when you pick it up. I suggest one with a thick neck and a small bulb, which will yield the most “squash meat” and less seeds. As with any vegetable, make sure there are no cuts, bruises or mold on the outer skin.
In terms of the walnut ricotta, you’ll want to spoon it into your mouth over and over again and use it for various other recipes, as well. So, why use walnuts when making my diary-free ricotta? Why not? I’m a big fan of walnuts because they lend a nice creaminess when pureed so you don’t even miss the dairy.
When making any dip or sauce or dairy-free cheese, I highly recommend using a mini food processor because the recipe will not work in a large food processor – the texture won’t be creamy because there will be such a small amount of food in such a large processor and the blade won’t be able to whip it up as well as a smaller food processor. Here’s the mini food processor I use.
For the lasagna noodles, I’m using chickpea lasagna noodles – they’re grain-free and gluten-free but you can use any noodles you desire.
Lastly, don’t skip the fresh oregano. It makes the ENTIRE dish complete.
Butternut Squash Lasagna with Walnut Ricotta
- 1 large butternut squash halved and seeded
- olive oil
- sea salt to taste
- 2 large red onions thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 package gluten-free lasagna noodles
- 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves for serving
- 2 cups walnuts
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper to roast the squash. Also, prepare an 8 x 12 inch baking dish with olive oil and set aside for the lasagna.
- Place the squash cut side down on the prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until very tender.
- Meanwhile, to make the caramelized onions, add a drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tsp.) to a large skillet. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onions and a pinch of sea salt. Toss the onions in the oil and spread the onions evenly in the pan with a spatula, cover, and scrape the pan every 5 minutes to ensure the onions start to brown and become very tender. Continue to scrape the pan with your spatula and cook until the onions are a deep brown color. Add some water or more olive oil if your onions start to dry out. Allow the onions to cook for 30 minutes or until the onions are browned and very tender.
- Make the walnut ricotta by combining all the Walnut Ricotta ingredients in a mini food processor and puree until very thick and creamy.
- Remove the squash from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes or until it's cool enough to touch. Using a spoon, scrape out the squash flesh and transfer it to a large food processor with the sea salt and cumin. Puree until the squash is creamy. Season to taste with the salt and cumin.
- Lower the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat bottom of the prepared baking dish with the squash purée then a layer of the lasagna noodles followed by the ricotta and onions and continue to layer until you use up all of the ingredients. The top layer should be the squash puree. Sprinkle the cumin over the top layer and add a few dollops of the walnut ricotta on top, if desired.
- Transfer the lasagna to the oven at the lower heat of 350 degrees F covered with parchment paper for 1 hour or until the noodles are tender. Remove the parchment paper and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove the lasagna from oven and set aside for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.
- Store leftovers in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.