*Note – I am that cook who throws things together and eyeballs measurements. To my best judgement, I have approximated measurements in this recipe. I urge you to cook to taste as well. It is a smarter use of your ingredients and your judgement. You know how salty or not you like your food, you know how much butter or milk are left in the fridge and should you save some for cereal in the morning or not..and etc. If you have a question about anything, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll coach you. Just don’t give my email out to a weird internet thing because that only annoys me.
O.k., get cooking!
2 Butternut Squash (from our garden! But however you can get your hands on them)
1 Fennel Bulb with greens (if you can’t get your hands on them, no worries, though they impart amazing flavor)
2 Large Yellow Onions
1 whole head of garlic, unpeeled
salt & pepper
thyme – if you have fresh, approximately 2 tbsp. finely minced – if you have dried, I used approximately 2 teaspoons
Roasting the Vegetables:
Preheat oven to 350degrees F.. In a large, shallow baking pan, arrange halved fennel bulb (with greens attached), halved & seeded butternut squashes (no need to peel skin), halved peeled onions, and entire garlic bulb. Drizzle with olive oil, approximately 4 tablespoons, and sprinkle approximately 1 teaspoon of pepper & 2 teaspoons of sea salt over all. Finish with thyme and then roast in oven for up to 40 minutes. Check at half an hour to make sure the smaller or more tender vegetables are not overcooking. I had to pull out the fennel greens earlier so they would not get too dark. The onion and the garlic also beat the squash while roasting. Make sure the squash is tender in the heavier sections when you pierce it with a fork.
Allow vegetables to cool. What I did was that I didn’t have time to see the recipe through on the first day of preparing the vegetables, so I bagged everything and left it in the refrigerator overnight so that I could finish the next day.
After vegetables cool, scoop butternuts squash out of skin & puree in a food processor or blender. Dice roasted onions and fennel.
1 package of fresh lasagna sheets (there were 8 sheets in the package I used)
1 lb of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese (I seldom have ricotta on hand when I need it, but I almost always have cottage cheese in the fridge. It is a perfect substitute.)
2 eggs, fresh as can be
12 ounces grated fresh mozzarella
12 ounces grated fresh parmasian
12 ounces grated cheddar
For the cheese filling, combine the cottage cheese or ricotta with the 2 eggs and about ½ teaspoon of pepper in a small mixing bowl – I use a fork to whisk them together. I really like a nice sprinkling of pepper through this layer because otherwise it is a great opportunity to add appropriate excitement.
Your other cheeses can be grated and waiting in the refrigerator so they are not going to become too soft as you prepare the sauce.
6 ounces of butter
approximately ½ cup of flour, maybe a bit more
2 -3 cups of 1% milk(which is what I had on hand)
Nutmeg, approximately ½ teaspoon
Cayenne Powder, approximately ¼ teaspoon
In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. After it is bubbling gently, whisk in flour and allow the mixture to cook for approximately 5 minutes, continuing whisking. Sometimes I add a little more flour(approximately ¼ cup) and keep whisking. You can usually add more liquid if you need to, but it’s hard to go back and add more flour once you’ve started adding the liquid.
After the butter & flour roux have cooked, add the nutmeg & cayenne, being careful not to add it and accidentally inhale it if you have too much flourish in your administration. I know this because I have learned the hard way.
Now add the milk slowly while whisking over the flame. Continue whisking and pouring milk until it is all incorporated into the saucepan. I make a judgement call as to whether I can add more milk or if it will be too runny. If it’s going well, I keep adding milk because I like to have an ample amount of sauce. Whisk over moderate heat for approximately 10 minutes. It is worth supervising this with your full attention so you can make a nice, smooth Bechamel that will impress the heck out of yourself when it’s time to use it in the lasagna. Pride is a sin, as they say, and you’re about to make a pretty sinful dish with this Bechamel. Oh boy.
The sauce is done when you like the thickness of it. I whisked & cooked mine to the point of a gravy thickness. It can be on the runny side if you like – the pasta in the lasagna dish does soak it up. Leave the saucepan on the stove with the heat off while you prepare to assemble the lasagna.
Assembling the Lasagna:
I had a 10 x 14 foil pan to prepare my lasagna in, but I think the sheets were small enough that a 9×12 pan would work well. However, I used what I had.
The first thing I do is pour a small ladle full of Bechamel into the bottom of the pan. I lay the first sheet of lasagna on top and then spread the pureed butternut squash lengthwise, not fussing about spreading it across the entire sheet because the layering process will smoosh it to the sides for you. On top of the butternut squash layer, I sprinkle a portion of the diced fennel & onion, then dollop the cottage cheese/egg mixture on top of it and down the middle. I then separate the garlic bulb which has been roasted and use approximate 2 cloves per layer. You can just squeeze the roasted garlic right out of the clove and onto the layer here and there. It gets a bit messy and sticky, but in the end, I like controlling the application of roasted garlic in this fashion. On top of this garlic I will add a handful of parmesian, mozzarella and cheddar.
I add approximately ¼ cup of Bechamel to the top of this layer.
Then begin the next layer, repeating until you’ve used up all of your ingredients.
Here is the part that I cannot predict: when you will run out of any of the ingredients for your layers. Everytime I’ve ever followed a lasagna recipe, I’ve been impressed with how I’ve had either too much of this or not enough of that to go the distance in the recipe. So I will advise you to eyeball your ingredients and try to stretch them over the entire process. If you run out of something, say, the garlic, well, it won’t be the end of the world that the other layers don’t have the dollop of roasted garlic. It will still taste great. But if you run out of Bechamel, that will be sad and you really should whip up some more.
At the very end of the lasagna, I pour the rest of the Bechamel over all and then I top with Mozzarella. I rub some olive oil over the inside of a large sheet of aluminum foil which I will put over the top of the casserole and tightly bind it around the edge, sealing it before putting it in the oven.
These fresh lasagna sheets don’t want to be cooked that long. I baked mine for about 35 minutes – would’ve been shorter but I was doing something…what was I doing? I don’t remember…oh, now I remember. I was getting someone’s turkey for them from the big cooler I keep them in when they had come to pick up their bird. It was dark outside and I was fumbling with a flashlight and then taking their check and all that and I didn’t realize that the timer was going off in the house. When I got back in the kitchen, I took the lasagna out of the oven and all was not lost, though the top was slightly dark in places.
The foil should pull off easily since you oiled it before hand. If not, carefully remove and see if you can get the stuck-on cheese off so as not to have wasted it. I firmly believe in not wasting stuck-on cheese. In fact, it’s kind of your reward for making this delicious dish, as in, you might want to plan on that cheese as part of your portion(which is what I do.)
I allowed my lasagna to cool for about 10 minutes to make for easier cutting. It is going to smell amazing, trust me, but you should wait so that when you cut it, it will serve more easily.
Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions or amendments to the recipe. Love to hear ‘feed’back 😉