Thursday, December 20, 2012

butternut squash lasagna

Some dishes are a favorite simply because of how tasty they are. Others are loved for the wonderful memories they evoke. For me, this dish qualifies for both categories.

The first time I had this meal was last year in my dear friend Erienne's home. One bite, and I was smitten. With it's predominant butternut squash flavor and the depth of heat from the spicy meat, it was the perfect dinner for a cold, fall night in my book. So with a firm resolve, I determined that it would definitely be on my calendar for this year's Autumn harvest.

And alas, if truth be told, I made this dish a couple of months ago in the prime of fall when butternut squash cheered eagerly for attention from the produce aisles of every grocery store in Virginia. Unfortunately, the chaos of work got in the way of our little blog visits, leaving me now rushing to capture the fleeting moments of Autumn's bounty on this, the eve of Winter Solstice, before you, too, are forced to wait a year before adding it to your menu.

At first glance, this dish may seem complicated and difficult with its instructions to cut the awkwardly round and hard squash into thin slices. But, let me assure you, it's surprisingly easy to do so. Trust me...and see for yourself.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Yield about 6 servings

1 pound hot Italian sausage (I found hot poultry Italian sausage at Wegmans and loved it, but regular pork sausage is delicious as well, though.)
1 medium red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can pizza sauce
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of fresh basil
1 large butternut squash, peeled

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Cut the neck from the bulb of the squash and set aside the bulb for another use. Slice the neck in half lengthwise then carefully slice into thin cross-sections. Set aside.

In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, brown the sausage and onions. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the pizza sauce, red peppers, oil, and 2 large leaves of basil. Puree until smooth.

In a 9x13 inch baking dish, spread a dollop of the sauce mixture to cover the bottom. Place a single of the squash over top, fitting in as many pieces as possible in a uniform direction. Top with the meat mixture, evenly distributing it throughout the dish. Chiffonade 2 additional basil leaves and sprinkle over the meat. Pour half of the remaining sauce evenly over the top. Place a second layer of squash slices evenly on top. Top with the remaining sauce.

Cover the dish with foil and cook in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until the squash is fork-tender.

Garnish with additional chiffonaded basil leaves.

Adapted from Easy Paleo