For many parts of the country, September is a bountiful month with the fruits of the summer labor bring a smorgasbord of options at the farmers markets. I have had to adjust my expectations a bit in Florida as this is not a bountiful time of year here. Farmers markets start up again in late September and October as many are closed during the heat of the summer. However, in today’s modern world when you can’t get local you can often still get good quality options at the local grocery store. I was able to purchase sweet corn form the Midwest today and I am cautiously optimistic that it will be as sweet as I remember the local Minnesota corn to be. If not, I still can savor the memory.
In most parts of the country apples and squash are coming into season in September along with all varieties of potatoes including sweet potatoes. In today’s dinner tonight feature, I wanted to share a recipe that would show case some of the bounty from the early fall. When I lived in the Midwest, this was the time of year that I started to crave soups and stews. Down in Florida when it is still 90 plus degrees F. Well, I am struggling a bit. Soups and stews will have to wait for a later fall feature this year.
So, what I did settle on was featuring my interpretation of Anne Brunnell’s recipe for Butternut Squash and Sausage Lasagna. This is a wonderful fall interpretation of the classic. It is also easily adaptable and by just swapping out the sausage for additional vegetables such as diced red peppers, artichokes, kale or even just additional mushrooms, you can make it into a vegetarian main dish. If you are following a Paleo diet, this dish is perfect for you.
Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sausage, adapted from the recipe of the same name by Anne Burrell featured on Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.
4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
3 ribs celery, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
1/2 fennel bulb, diced
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 pounds fresh hot Italian style ground pork
1 (12 ounce) can of tomato paste
2 cups dry white wine, divided
1 large can or package (28 ounces) of pureed canned tomatoes
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme, minced
grated fresh nutmeg, to taste
3 large butternut squash, peeled, quartered, seeded and a sliced into thin slices (1/8 to 1/4 inch) using a mandolin
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 pounds cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large family size package of washed baby spinach
2 cups fresh ricotta
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the first 7 ingredients in a food processor and blend until a thick paste is formed and ingredients are combined. Add grapeseed oil to a large skillet and add vegetable mixture. Season with salt and crush red pepper. Saute until browned, watching carefully to avoid burning, stirring occasionally. Add the pork and saute until sausage is cooked sausage is fully browned. Add the paste and stir to combine. Let saute for another 5 minutes, stirring. Add white wine and reduce for 3 minutes or so. Add pureed tomatoes, bay, thyme and 1 additional cup of white wine and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Reduce the liquid by about half. If desired, repeat process of adding water and wine and reduce one more time. Taste and adjust seasoning (salt and pepper), to taste.
Rub squash slices with grapeseed oil I like to use either butter or roasted garlic flavor from Wildtree for additional depth of flavor. Season with salt. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until tender but not fully cooked through. Repeat as necessary if you don’t have enough baking sheets or oven space to do in one batch.When complete, increase oven temperature to 375 F.
Add additional grapeseed oil to a large saute pan and add 2 to 4 cloves of garlic and a dash of red pepper over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and saute until cook until soft.Roughly chop spinach and toss into the pan with the mushroom and toss to combine. Remove from pan the heat. Pour into a colander and drain any excess liquid. Allow to drain while you continue with remaining steps.
Mix ricotta, egg, parsley and 1 cup of Asiago cheese in medium mixing bowl.
Assemble the lasagna in a large lasagna plan or 9 x 13 baking dish. Start by spreading an even layer of the ragu on the bottom. Add a layer of roasted squash as you would lasagna noodles. Grate a touch of nutmeg over the squash. Cover with additional ragu, spread 1/3 of the ricotta, 1/3 of the mushroom mixture and 1/3 of the remaining Asiago cheese and mozzarella. Repeat. For your last layer top the mushrooms with a little more ragu and the last later of cheese.
Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 45 minutes. I do recommend as Anne does, to place lasagna on a sheet tray before placing in the oven. It makes removing it from the oven easier and also prevents over flow in the oven and a hot burnt on mess.
Remove the foil during the last 10 to 15 minutes to allow the cheese to brown. Rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving to allow the lasagna to set.
I hope you enjoy this bountiful fall feast! It is one you can enjoy whether it feels like fall where you are or not!