Cucina Italiana- Portobello and Squash Lasagna

December 26th, 2012

Unlike other recipes featured in this newsletter, this dish not a La Romita staple. It is, however, a family favorite and made in the La Romita style– that is, with simple, fresh, healthy ingredients. Cold winter months call out for pasta al forno, and this version can be served by itself as a delicious meat-free meal. Making lasagna is always time consuming: one advantage to this recipe is that he ingredients can be prepared a few days before the dish is assembled, which makes preparation less painful.

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash
1 pound Portobello or Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced or roughly chopped.
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 box (9 or 10 oz) of dried, “no cook” lasagna sheets (Barilla is good), or else fresh pasta
12-14 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small chunks (1/4 inch dice)
3 oz (approx) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. white wine
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black OR white pepper

Directions

For the squash:  Pre-heat an oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Quarter the butternut squash, removing the seeds and stringy pulp. Place the quarters, facing up, side-by-side on a large baking sheet. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water in the bottom of the baking sheet, and drizzle the sections with a small amount of olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees, adding small amounts of water to prevent browning or carmelization, until you can easily insert a fork into the squash, approximately 50 minutes. When the squash is cool, scoop out the insides and discard the skin. Puree with a blender until smooth, adding a bit of salt (to taste).

For the mushrooms: Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 inch) skillet. Add the mushrooms and crushed garlic and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt and freshly crushed pepper, to taste: add some white wine or water to keep the mixture moist (but not soupy). Cook for an additional 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 or 15 minutes. Puree the mushrooms in a blender or food processor until finely chopped– the mixture should be spreadable and have the consistency of pesto. Add a small amount of water if necessary to achieve the desired consistency.

The mushroom and squash purees will keep for 5-7 days in a refrigerator.

Assembly: Butter a 9 by 13 baking dish. Spread a small amount of squash puree’ in the bottom of the dish. Place a layer of pasta* on top of this thin layer. Spread the top of the pasta sheets with a thin layer of squash puree’ followed by a thin layer of mushroom puree’. Dab generously with the mozzarella cheese, and sprinkle with 2-3 tbs of Parmesan cheese. Repeat for 3-4 more layers, or until you run out of ingredients (a 9 oz box of dry lasagna pasta and 12-13 oz of mozzarella cheese will typically yield 4 layers). Drizzle the last layer with a small amount of olive oil and an extra dose of Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes: the top of the lasagna should be a golden brown. Cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!

*If using dry pasta, such as the flat “homemade” lasagna sheets made by Barilla, it’s helpful to soften them  ahead of time with boiling water. One fool-proof method is to simply placing the entire box of lasagna sheets in a loaf pan or other baking dish, cover with boiling water, and soak for 2-3 minutes prior to using them for the lasagna.