Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Squash and sweet potato lasagne

I love lasagne as much as the next person, but I think we can all agree it's not an every day treat. Put it this way: it's a calorie bomb. But replace the meat with veggies and you'll find you won't have to feel so guilty. I got inspired to make this dish by watching Lorraine Pascale's new show (which is pretty cool, though I seriously doubt she ever eats any of her creations. But hey, that's just me); as soon as the words butternut squash and sweet potatoes reached my ears I was sold. 
Lorraine's version uses a ton (ok, 600 grams) of ricotta cheese instead of white sauce, which frankly, is a bit too much for my liking. I ended up modifying the recipe a lot, adding the much feared by some white sauce (it is super easy), but trust me, the finished lasagne is delicious. Indulgent, but a bit healhier than its meat cousin.

To make 4 generous portions you'll need:

350 g sweet potato, peeled and cubed
350 g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
50 g grated parmesan
12 lasagne sheets (I used lasagne verdi)
2 big handfuls of spinach
100 g pine nuts
a big handful of fresh basil
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
a pinch of cayenne or cajun spice

Sauce 1
50 g grated parmesan
2 egg yolks
100 g ricotta
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

Sauce 2 
2 -3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
500 ml milk

Start by putting two pots of water on the stove - get the water boiling and prep your ingredients.
Peel and cube butternut squash and sweet potato, then put in the first pot of boiling water and cook until soft. Drain and set aside.

Get a sheet of parchment paper (or grease proof paper) and spread it on your workbench. Once the water in the second pot is boiling, add a splash of oil and drop 3 sheets of lasagne into the pot. Cook them for about 2-3 minutes, then fish out and lay on the parchment paper. Prepare 12 sheets of lasagne this way. This is a bit messy, but it speeds up the cooking process later!

Now make the first sauce. Simply mix parmesan, ricotta and 2 egg yolks together in a bowl, add salt, pepper and nutmeg and set aside.

Off to the second sauce. Start off by gently melting butter in a small pot. You want the gas on its lowest setting. Get the whisk and flour and milk ready. 

Once the butter is melted, add the flour and quickly whisk. You've just made roux. How awesome are you? 

Now start pouring milk into the roux whisking quickly to avoid lumps. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and keep stirring the mix with the whisk. After a few minutes, as the milk gets hotter, the sauce should start thickening. 
Keep stirring and take off the heat once the sauce has the consistency of a pouring yoghurt. 

Transfer into a measuring jug and set aside.
Toast the pine nuts in a small dry frying pan.

Now add thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and cayenne/cajun spice to drained sweet potatoes and squash and mash together.

Get a heat proof dish (I used a square pyrex form which fitted 3 sheets of slightly overlapping lasagne).
Start by pouring a bit of sauce at the bottom of the dish, then cover with 3 sheets of pasta.

Spread sweet potato mix on top, sprinkle with pine nuts and basil leaves.

Top with spinach leaves and cover with 3 more sheets of pasta. Pour a bit of the white sauce and spread on top of the pasta layer. Add sweet potato mix and spread the ricotta sauce on top. Sprinkle pine nuts and basil, cover with pasta. Repeat.

The last layer will be pasta, parmesan and the rest of the white sauce.

Bake in 190 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through. I like to use a scientific method called 'Poke It With a Fork'.

Serve with a mixed leaf salad. Yum.

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