Butternut squash and hazelnut lasagne

I'm a big fan of fall. The air gets cool and crisp, the leaves change color, my sweaters and scarves come back into rotation, and best of all: unfussy summer foods get replaced by sauce slicked strands of pasta, bubbling pot pies, hearty stews and a certain butternut squash and hazelnut lasagne.

Ever since discovering it four years ago in an issue of Gourmet, this is the recipe I turn to when the temperature dips sometime around the end of September and the air starts to slightly sting my nose. I like to consider it my ode to autumn.

Unlike a more traditional lasagne with a red sauce and meat, this one relies on a combination of toasted hazelnuts, tender chunks of squash, grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano, slices of fresh mozzarella, a hearty sprinkling of sage and a silky bechamel sauce. Together, the bright layers look, smell and taste like fall.

I made one last Sunday to bring over to Marie and Joe who welcomed their first child, Lachlan, on September 25, just four days after the official start of the season. I couldn't be happier that he's here (those nine months really feel like forever!), but think he picked the perfect time to finally make his appearance.

Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne
From Gourmet

For squash filling
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted, loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel, and coarsely chopped

For sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
1 bay leaf (not California)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

For assembling lasagne
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (1/2 lb)

Make filling:
Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cooks:
Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)

Assemble lasagne:
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagne in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Note from Lia: Daniel and I like to grate amaretti cookies on top of pumpkin ravioli and were happy to discover that it adds an equally sweet and crunchy touch to slices of this lasagna as well.

Cooks' note:
• Filling and sauce can be made 1 day ahead and kept separately, covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature before assembling.

Makes 6 servings.

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Anne Stesney said...

My mouth is watering! This sounds great. I've got a tub of hazelnuts and a bunch of sage leftover from other recipes. Guess what I'm making this weekend?

Between you, Andrea and Gourmet magazine, I may never have to open another cookbook.

Lia said...

It's really such an amazing fall dish. And I'm glad Andrea and I are keeping you from having to open any cookbooks. You two are doing the same for me, that's for sure!

Dan said...

I just made this recipe today. It was delicious! Thanks for sharing this!

Lia said...

My pleasure, Dan. It's one of my most favorite lasagnas ever. I need to make it again myself soon!


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