Lasagna. Once upon a time it meant striations of wide wiggle-edge ribbons of pasta layered with creamy ricotta cheese, tomato-y meat sauce, parmesan cheese and melted mozzarella. No wonder it is #8 on the Google most-wanted recipe search. But today, that familiar rendition of lasagna has been mostly relegated to pizza places and family-run trattorias. Even diners. Today lasagna is pure fashion, with new seasons sporting adventurous combinations and colors — nothing anyone in Italy would recognize as a classic.
Years, ago I created a modern twist on lasagna for Bon Appetit magazine. It was made with butternut squash, portabello mushrooms, fresh sage and thyme, and smoked mozzarella. Little did I know that, in one neighborhood in particular, it became a prelude to childbirth. According to my good friend Debbie Freundlich, whose daughter-in-law began the trend, before any expectant Brooklyn Heights mother went to the hospital, an ample supply of my butternut lasagna was prepared days before and popped in the freezer! Apparently, many expecting fathers, friends and relatives have been treated to big squares of this stuff for half-a-dozen years or more. When I asked Debbie to tell me about this special recipe, she told me the ingredients. I chortled, “Hey, that’s my recipe.” Little did I know that it had been given a new name. In some zip codes, it’s known as “pregnancy lasagna.” What can I say? It’s made with “no-boil” lasagna noodles (a requirement made by the Bon App editors), is vegetarian, and satisfying to make. And it seems to freeze well.
Butternut Squash and Portabello Lasagna
I used a very good organic vegetable broth called Imagine from California. It has lots of body and lovely flavor. This can be assembled one day ahead and refrigerated.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2-1/2 cups finely chopped onions
8 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded
2 cups vegetable broth
4 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
4 tablespoons slivered fresh sage
3 15-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta
4 cup grated mozzarella or smoked mozzarella (or a combination)
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 large eggs, beaten
9-ounce package no-boil lasagna noodles
olive oil for oiling lasagna pan
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to high and add sliced mushrooms. Cook until tender, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to bowl and set aside. Cut squash into 1/4-inch thick slices or 1/2-inch dice. Add squash, broth, 3 tablespoons thyme and 3 tablespoons sage to the skillet. Cover and simmer until squash is just tender, about 6 minutes. Uncover and cook until squash is very soft but still retains shape, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, 1-1/2 cups parmesan and remaining herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper; mix in eggs. Brush a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with oil. Spread 1 cup ricotta mixture over bottom. Arrange 3 noodles on top. Spread 1-3/4 cups ricotta mixture over noodles. Arrange 1-1/3 cups squash mixture over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mushrooms and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with 3 noodles, then 1-3/4 cups ricotta, half of remaining squash, 1/2 cup mushrooms and remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Repeat with noodles, 1-3/4 cups ricotta, remaining squash and remaining mushrooms. Top with 3 noodles. Spread remaining ricotta on top; sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Cover with oiled foil. Preheat oven to 350. Bake, covered, 35 minutes. Uncover and bake about 25 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8