Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage Tofu Ricotta

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage Tofu Ricotta | www.asweetspoonful.com

We recently had our favorite day of married life yet. When I tell you what it consisted of, you may worry or chuckle. Sundays used to be sacred in our house in the sense that it was our one day off together. We’d often read the paper, get a slice of quiche at Cafe Besalu, or take walks around Greenlake or Discovery Park. But now Sundays are generally when I work the farmers market for Marge Granola, and Sam helps me set up and take down each week, so they’ve taken on a very different feel, one more of work than leisure. So a few months ago, after mildly panicking that we no longer had any routines or days off, we reclaimed Saturdays as ‘the new Sunday’ and last weekend set the bar pretty high. The day began really cold: in the high 20’s and graduated, eventually, to the 30’s. We decided it’d be nice to just stay inside; Sam had a little work to do and some letters to write. He had a few articles he’d been wanting to read. And I’d been thinking about this lasagna recipe, so I puttered around the kitchen roasting squash and slicing garlic. The afternoon ticked on slowly. Sam made us baked eggs for a late lunch and I tried unsuccessfully to nap. I think it was the calmest we’d both felt in a long time.

I’m lucky to have found a man who loves spending time at home as much as I do. While we both love going out to see friends, traveling, and having people over to our place, we also gain the most, I’d say, by doing simple things around the house — straightening up, making a meal. organizing records or books or photos.  Especially in this season of cold temperatures and early-darkening skies, it’s what I crave the most. And last Saturday closed in the best of ways: we opened a bottle of “wedding wine” (thanks to my neurosis and fear we’d run out, we over-ordered wine when planning for our wedding) and dug into generous slices of this very special vegetarian lasagna, a hearty layered affair with caramelized onions, a sage-flecked tofu ricotta and a simple, savory butternut squash purée.

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage Tofu Ricotta | www.asweetspoonful.com

The recipe for this fall lasagna comes from Amy Chaplin’s new book, At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. I bought Amy’s book when we returned from our honeymoon, eagerly anticipating its arrival at the bookstore for days (and slightly harassing the clerks by calling to “just to check in” one more time). I think what attracts me so much to Amy’s style of cooking, if I’m to be honest, is that it feels very familiar to me because it reminds me of how we cook around here. But if I were to open up a book that reflected back exactly what we do at home, it’d likely be a bore and Amy’s book is anything but. It’s familiar enough that I feel right at home, ready to pull up a chair and dig in. I relate. But then she pushes me further, to consider mashing celery root, making socca, or whipping up a batch of miso mayonnaise. Her Pantry Essentials chapter is extremely in-depth, even touching on a week of meals in her house. This is a beautiful, no frills cookbook that will likely delight anyone interested in vegetarian cooking, whole grains, or incorporating more whole foods into their diet.

At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen | Featured on www.asweetspoonful.com

I responded to the recipe for the Butternut Squash Lasagna quickly on my first flip-through as it reminded me of a favorite meal we recently shared in Rome. We’d shared, just weeks before, a plate of buttery butternut squash ravioli with just a touch of sage at Colline Emiliane, a small family-run restaurant specializing in handmade pasta. Ashlae had told me that the pasta here was unbelievable (maybe the best  in Rome?) and I, stupidly, didn’t think to make a reservation much in advance. Or at all. So the day before I thought we’d like to go for dinner, I had the hotel call only to discover they were fully booked. How about the next night? Booked. The next… lunch? We’ll take anything! There was a long pause on the other end of the line and, thankfully, they’d decided they could squeeze us in the next day for lunch. That was the only available reservation left all week. 12 p.m. sharp.

Roasted Butternut Squash | www.asweetspoonful.com

We arrived a bit early and the doors were locked, the staff sitting together presumably reviewing the day’s meal. There was a little boy with a head full of brown curls running about and an older woman chasing him around the dining room. I later learned from his dad that his name was Lorenzo. We sat outside in the alley to wait along with a few other couples, and at 12 sharp, the door opened and we were guided to our seats in the small front dining room. Most of us were tourists, it seemed — some American. We ordered wine and garlicky spinach to share; we deliberated over which pastas to order, ultimately choosing the ricotta and butternut squash ravioli and the tagliatelle bolognese. And then a funny thing happened after we’d ordered and poured our first glasses of wine: the real Italians showed up.

There were elderly couples dressed for a true date — you could tell this was their big event of the day; there were families with squirmy toddlers, and middle-aged women in smart shift dresses and handbags sharing an afternoon catch up. Some seemed to know each other and would aim to quickly catch up in the brief walk between the front door and their designated table: They were guided to the small back dining room and when that eventually filled up, a few were seated in the front with us. The Italian regulars knew Lorenzo’s father, the gentleman working the front of house and seating everyone — his mother (Lorenzo’s grandmother) makes all of the pastries and desserts so she was milling about greeting regulars, too. Young Lorenzo continued to whiz by tables and would shyly approach some of the elderly couples to say hello. It was very clear: this is what many of these Italian families did on Saturday. This restaurant had become part of their sacred routine.

Butternut Squash Puree | www.asweetspoonful.com

And so: maybe this lasagna, sharing many elements and ingredients from the infamous Italian ravioli, will soon be part of your Saturday. I will say that Amy indicates it feeds 8 people, but I think it easily feeds 10-12 (especially if you’re serving a salad or side dish with it), so it could be a great vegetarian Thanksgiving contender or just a good one to have one evening and freeze the rest for a later date this winter. It’s not the speediest recipe I’ve ever written about; while nothing here is difficult or highly skilled, there are definitely multiple steps so do set aside some time to work through them. I’ve been listening to Serial, and also really love Death, Sex and Money and The New Yorker Out Loud if you’re looking for some company in the kitchen. For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving next week, I hope it’s relaxing and full of good food, friends and ones you love.

A Few Recipe Notes: I made a few tweaks to Amy’s recipe, indicated below. First we thought the butternut squash needed a touch more salt, so I ended up adding a little Parmesan cheese to round out the sweetness which I like a lot. In the tofu ricotta, I thought the addition of nuts would be really nice; I’d initially thought about walnuts but Sam suggested cashews so we went with that; they add a subtle nuttiness to the tofu ricotta but don’t compete with its delicate flavors. As for caramelizing onions, I ended up needing two pans to fit all of my onions, so perhaps prepare accordingly. Last, I asked Amy if she had a suggestion if you can’t find brown rice vinegar (I actually left out the 1 tablespoon of ume plum vinegar Amy calls for in the ricotta because I couldn’t find it): she said that “in a pinch” you could use apple cider vinegar or a little lemon juice “but since they lack the delicate sweetness of brown rice vinegar I’d suggest using less.”

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage Tofu Ricotta | www.asweetspoonful.com

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage Tofu Ricotta
If you can’t find no-boil noodles, just use regular lasagna noodles and follow the cooking instructions on the package before layering. And while there are specific instructions on how much squash and ricotta to use while layering and assembling, I think the best part about making a lasagna is going pretty free-form; just make sure everything gets in amongst the layers and it will taste great.

Recipe Slightly Adapted From: At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen

Serves: 8-12

Necessary Equipment: 8 x 12 inch or 9 x 13 inch lasagna pan

Squash Purée:
2 medium-large butternut squash (total of 5.5-6 pounds)
extra virgin olive oil for brushing squash
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Caramelized Onions:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium yellow onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Tofu Ricotta:
3/4 cup toasted cashews (see How to Toast Nuts in the Oven for more details)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling pan
10 garlic cloves, cut in 1/4-inch slices
2 12-ounce blocks plain, firm tofu, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
5 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped sage, plus 8 whole sage leaves to garnish
1 package no boil whole-wheat lasagna noodles

Make the Squash Purée 
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut neck off butternut squash, and cut in half lengthwise. Rub squash with olive oil and place cut-side down on parchment-lined tray. Roast for 50 minutes or until you can pierce the flesh easily with a knife. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you cook the onion. Once squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out seeds with a spoon and peel off skin. Compost seeds and skin. Add squash to food processor with salt and a few grinds of pepper and blend until completely smooth. Sprinkle in Parmesan cheese and blend until incorporated. Scoop into a bowl and set aside. Rinse out food processor as you’ll use it again for the tofu ricotta.

Caramelize the Onions:
Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add onions. Sauté for 10 minutes or until beginning to brown. Add salt, lower heat slightly and continue cooking for 20 minutes, or until onions are soft and caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the Tofu Ricotta:
Place the toasted cashews in the food processor and process until fine and dusty (but be careful not to overprocess; don’t allow it to turn into a nut butter).

Add 1/2 the caramelized onions (reserve the rest to layer into the lasagna) to the food processor and crumble the tofu in as well. Add the brown rice vinegar, salt, pinch of black pepper. The food processor will be very full — that’s o.k.

Next, warm olive oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add garlic, reduce heat a little and gently simmer until soft and golden, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat; add to food processor. Blend all ingredients until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Add chopped sage and process until incorporated. Scoop mixture into a bowl; set aside a heaping 1/2 cup for garnishing the top of the lasagna.

Assemble: 
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush lasagna pan with olive oil. Spread 3/4 cup squash purée over bottom of pan and top with a single layer of noodles, then top with half of tofu ricotta. Repeat with another layer of noodles, and another 1 1/2 cups squash purée. Spread caramelized onions over squash and top with a final layer of noodles. Cover with remaining tofu ricotta, and top with remaining squash purée. Spoon 8 dots of reserved tofu ricotta evenly over the top, press a sage leaf into each one, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Cover with parchment paper and then with foil; bake for 50-60 minutes or until noodles are tender and lasagna is heated through. To test, insert a knife into the center; you shouldn’t feel any resistance. If noodles are still firm, continue cooking covered for another 5-10 minutes. Remove cover, and bake additional 10 minutes, or until top layer of squash looks set. Remove from oven and allow to sit at least 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or wrap well and freeze.

Comments

  1. sarah | little house pantry

    Whoa. This looks great! Might try making it this weekend. I'm also wishing I were in Rome to try that restaurant!

  2. Tracy | Pale Yellow

    Relaxing weekend days at home are perfect for the soul! Sometimes I schedule days with nothing scheduled so I can have time off from everything! This lasagna looks delightful!

  3. ellie

    This reminds me very much of the ABC Kitchen squash toast. I had leftovers of everything and made it into a pasta sauce - delicious!

    Can I ask if the tofu ricotta adds something a normal ricotta doesn't, incase vegan is not necessary?

    Thanks for sharing

    1. megang

      Hi, Ellie-
      Good question. The recipe is inherently vegan but you could absolutely use a regular ricotta if you'd like. I'd stir in the chopped sage so that you get that flavor and I'd fold in just a little of the vinegar if I were you, too (the flavor is nice). But no, I think regular ricotta will be just fine. Enjoy! ~Megan

  4. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Relaxing at home with your loved one is definitely the best! Especially if there is lasagna, or another comforting food! This looks awesome.

  5. Michelle @ Vitamin Sunshine

    That is so beautiful-- and delicious looking! Squash and sage are my two favorite flavors of this season.

    It is important to have someone you feel comfortable just being at home with! My fiance and I love our weekends, and always spend a day just at home or around our neighborhood. Weeks get so crazy, it's nice to have a calm day thrown in there!

  6. Francesca

    Just added Amy's book to my wishlist. Your lasagna tray looks beautiful - pumpkin and sage is one of my favorite combinations <3

  7. Mia

    This looks heavenly. And something that if I did not tell my brother the "cheese" is tofu, he would at least try. But the game would be up when he saw me eating it since I am non-dairy. I am adding this to my list to make after the Thanksgiving holidays since that menu is already planned out.

    I am wondering how well it will freeze cut into individual serving sizes? Or would it be possible to cut the recipe in half? I am the only one who would eat it in my entire extended family so that is always something I have to keep in mind.

    1. megang

      Hi, Mia-
      Yes this made A LOT of lasagna. We froze it individually (cut and then wrapped) and I've thawed and had one for lunch and it was just as delicious. I think you could easily cut the recipe in half and just make it in a smaller pan, obviously (an 8x8 would be my first go-to although it'll be a touch off). I hope that helps; it's delicious, but I hear you: It's big. Enjoy the week, ~Megan

  8. katy

    Wow, if my Thanksgiving menu were not already set in stone (I finished the shopping today), this would well and truly be a contender! The photos are gorgeous with the little dollops of tofu ricotta, and I like the fact that it seems more vegetable heavy than other vegetarian lasagna I've had.

    And, as for your quiet day at home, I think it sounds absolutely lovely. Those are my favorite kinds of days.

  9. Ashley

    Any other recommendations for Rome? We'll be visiting in a couple of weeks, and I'd love to know if you found any other gems. Last time we were there, we were underwhelmed with the restaurants we tried.

    1. megang

      Hi, Ashley-
      Rome fell at the very end of our trip, so we did a lot of more casual pizza / gelato hopping rather than real dining. We tried the pizza at Pizzarium which is really well known and had really interesting, delicious flavor combinations (but pretty crowded and out of the way). 00100 Pizza is also supposed to be great. We tried many gelato shops and found Claudio Torce to be the very best. Other than that, we ended up eating casual lunches at sidewalk cafes ... I realize that may not be super helpful in terms of actual dining, but the pasta that I mention in this post was absolutely incredible, so it's a very good spot. ~Megan

  10. Marco

    I like ricotta. I like everything that we can do with ricotta:-)

  11. kristie {birch and wild}

    This book is at the top of my book wishlist (and it is a long list!). I love the whole idea of this lasagne. The creaminess of the squash and tofu ricotta, mixed with the sage. It all sounds perfect.

  12. autumn

    I've been weary of tofu ricotta in the past because crumbled tofu does not make "ricotta" imho :) but, this sounds fantastic, rich, and flavorful! And I'm glad my boyfriend and I are not the only ones having "omg we have no routine" freak-outs.

  13. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    What a gorgeous narrative (and lovely intention, the Saturday as "the new Sunday", I love that). To me this sounds like an ideal "married" day. That's what it's about, having a best friend to hang with & brighten your every day. I adored hearing about your Rome restaurant revelation. And now I have a sure pasta craving. Lasagne too, obviously x

  14. beth

    If you use regular ricotta, how much should be used?

    1. megang

      Hi, Beth-
      Great question. I felt like this recipe yield A LOT of the ricotta so I feel like two 15-oz containers would be perfect here. I haven't measured this exactly so don't quote me, but this feels about right to me. I hope you enjoy the recipe! ~Megan

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