Butternut squash and turkey lasagna

Going to the grocery store starving hungry is never a good thing.  I know this, yet I do it.  However, sometimes this hunger ignites the food awesomeness creativity in my brain, and I come up with food ideas.  We taste test them, and then I share them with you.  This is the case of this butternut squash and turkey lasagna.  Having gone hungry to the store ended up not being a bad thing.

Last week I was walking down the pasta aisle and I noticed a jar of butternut squash sauce for about $8.00.  I read the ingredients on the back of the label, and I figured I could absolutely make the sauce myself for maybe half of that (I don’t have the dollar breakdown – sorry!), and get much joy in doing so.  Additionally, it gave me another excuse to use my brand new toy – the Blendtec.  I love love LOVE my new Blendtec blender! We’ve been making lots of fruit and vegetable juices to increase our intake of vegetables on a daily basis.

As you know, lasagnas are a bit time consuming, but they are not hard to make.  Using no boil noodles makes the process easier.   I’ve made lasagna before here.  But when I look a the pictures, even though it is a tasty lasagna, it looks rather skinny and puny.  So this time around I wanted a lasagna thick and with lots of layers.  I did a layer of turkey, a layer of butternut squash sauce, a layer of cheeses, with noodles in between.  Thick.  Divine.  Flavorful.  Different.  The butternut squash, the turkey and the cheeses are a great combination.  The sauce is sweet, thick and creamy; the turkey takes on the flavors it is surrounded with, and the cheeses gives add more creaminess and compliments the rest of the ingredients adding the savory flavor to it.  If the acidity of a regular tomato marinara sauce plays tricks on your stomach, try this lasagna instead.  Make this lasagna tonight!

Cookery instruments needed:

A baking sheet, a large skillet, a 9×11 or 8×11 (weird, right?  I have an 8×11 which is what I used) baking dish, a blender or food processor, a vegetable peeler, kitchen knife and spatula.

Cookery ingredients used:

OK.  So when I got home, I was so excited about putting this lasagna and I created the ingredient mood board in my mind and then laid it out.  At first I thought I would need to make a roux for my butternut squash sauce, but the butternut squash puree is so creamy that the roux wasn’t necessary.  The hearts are to show you how much I love you.  And to hide the unnecessary ingredients.

Lasagna ingredients

1 box no boil lasagna noodles; roasted red peppers: enough pieces to equate 1 pepper (about 5); ground turkey: 1 lb.; tomato paste: 1 tbsp; low fat ricotta: 12 oz.; 1 butternut squash: ~ 2 lbs.; 2 shallots; 5 garlic cloves; celery: 2 stalks; yellow onion: 1/2 of it, diced; bacon: 2 strips.  Not pictured: chicken stock: 1/4 cup for the butternut squash sauce + 1 cup for the turkey; freshly grated parmesan cheese: 1/4 cup; 2 whole eggs; salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper to taste.

Making the Butternut Squash Sauce:

Roasting vegetables

Roast the butternut squash, the celery, 3 cloves of garlic and the shallots.  Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle some salt over them.  Bake them in a 425F degree oven for 30 minutes.

Roasted vegetables

Roasted butternut squash

After the 30 minutes are over, remove the celery, the shallots and the garlic, and return the butternut squash for another 15 minutes.

Making the sauce

In a blender, pour the 1/4 cup of chicken stock.  Oh yeah, and here is my beloved Blendtec.  I cannot tell you how much I love this blender.  You can do just about anything with it.  It is an investment, but you will recoup it in no time.  We’ve made so many fruit and vegetable shakes and soups.  You can even make bread dough!

Pureeing vegetables

And add the chopped butternut squash, followed by the rest of the roasted vegetables and the roasted peppers.  Season the vegetables with some salt, white pepper and some freshly ground nutmeg.

BLEND!  And set aside.

Preparing the turkey:

Rendering bacon

In a large skillet, spray some cooking spray and fry two chopped pieces of bacon on medium heat to render the fat out.  Fry until crispy.

Bacon bits

Once fried, remove the bacon bits from the pan and set aside.  Resist the urge to stuff your mouth with them.  As always, I speak from experience.

Sauteeing onions

In that same glorious, rendered fat, sautee the yellow onions for a few minutes.  Your kitchen will smell divine.

Adding garlic

Sautee till translucent

Add the 2 cloves of minced garlic and sautee until the onions become translucent, in total about 5 minutes.  If the onions are browning too fast, lower the heat.

Seasoning turkey

To the onions, add the ground turkey.  Season the turkey with salt and white pepper, followed by the tomato paste.  I added a pinch of cayenne pepper towards the end to give it a bit of a kick.

Adding stock

Add the chicken stock and cook until the turkey is done.  This turkey sauce won’t be “saucy” per se, but there should be some liquid left once it’s done.

Finally, add back the bacon bits and let it rest.  Letting it rest for 15 minutes or more allows all the flavors to combine, which is key for the turkey since it is a meat that has little flavor on its own.

For the cheese sauce:

Making cheese sauce

In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese with the eggs and the grated parmesan cheese.

Cheese sauce

Mix with a spatula until incorporated.  Add a pinch of salt and white pepper to taste.  You may want to do that before you add the eggs, if you are concerned about salmonella…

Assembling the lasagna:

Layering the lasagna

On your baking dish, ladle a bit of the turkey.  Layer some noodles over the turkey, followed by the butternut squash sauce, more noodles, and the ricotta cheese.  And top the cheese layer with…  More cheese!  Add some grated mozzarella over this layer.

Repeat the process.  Since my baking dish ended not being that deep, I combined the turkey with the butternut squash towards the end.  I was also running out of noodles.  Your last layer will be the cheese layer, and finish it off with plenty of mozzarella.

Cover your lasagna pan with aluminum foil, ensuring it doesn’t touch the cheese.  Bake in a 350F oven for 40-45 minutes until the cheese is melted and gooey.  Yum…

Butternut squash and turkey lasagna

Serve with a bit more grated parmesan cheese and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.  What inspiration have you found in the supermarket lately?

Butternut Squash and Turkey Lasagna

Yield: 8 rectangular pieces

Ingredients

    For the butternut squash sauce:
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded (~ 2lbs.)
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4-5 pieces of roasted bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • Olive oil
  • For the turkey:
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 bacon strips, cut it smaller pieces
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped (~ 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
  • For the cheese sauce:
  • 1 12-oz tub low fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
  • For the lasagna
  • 1 9-oz box no boil lasagna noodles (or more noodles should you need to layer more noodles)

Instructions

    For the butternut squash sauce:
  1. Preheat the oven at 425F.
  2. On a baking sheet, place the butternut squash, the celery, shallots and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes. Once this time is up, remove the smaller vegetables and return the butternut squash back to oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Chop the butternut squash into smaller pieces
  4. In a blender, add the chicken stock followed by all the roasted vegetables and the roasted red peppers.
  5. Season the vegetables with salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Puree until smooth. Adjust seasoning if necessary and set aside.
  6. For the turkey:
  7. In a large skillet on medium heat, spray some cooking spray.
  8. Add the chopped bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy.
  9. Remove the bacon from the skillet and set aside.
  10. Sautee the yellow onions for a few minutes in the rendered bacon fat. Add the garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.
  11. Add the turkey to the skillet and stir. Add the tomato paste and season with salt, white pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  12. Add the chicken stock and cook until the turkey is done.
  13. Add the bacon bits back into the turkey and stir to incorporate all the flavors. Set aside and let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
  14. For the cheese sauce:
  15. In a bowl combine the ricotta cheese, eggs and parmesan cheese. Mix until smooth. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
  16. Assembling the lasagna:
  17. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  18. In a 8x11 or 9x11 baking dish, ladle some of the turkey mixture to cover the bottom.
  19. Place some noodles, overlapping them slightly.
  20. Ladle some of the butternut squash sauce over the noodles to cover them.
  21. Add another layer of noodles, followed by the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the ricotta layer.
  22. Repeat the layering process, finishing with the cheese and mozzarella layer.
  23. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil, ensuring it doesn't touch the cheese. You can stick some toothpicks in the lasagna to tent the foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the cheese is melted.
  24. Serve with more grated parmesan cheese and some chopped parsley.
http://www.tstastybits.com/2012/03/butternut-squash-and-turkey-lasagna/