Butternut Squash and Oregon Blue Cheese Lasagna

October 1, 2005

Butternut Squash and Oregon Blue Cheese Lasagna

Kaspar and Nancy Donier, co-owners of Kaspar’s restaurant (www.kaspars.com) on Queen Anne, a delightful neighborhood just North of the Pike Place Market, are long-time Market supporters. Chef Kaspar’s vegetarian lasagna is an intriguing mix of meltingly tender winter squash, lush blue-cheese cream sauce, blanched spinach, and earthy hazelnuts. The ground nutmeg and fresh sage leaves that garnish the casserole infuse the kitchen with enticing aromas as the lasagna is baking, to create a recipe that is the essence of autumn.

Room temperature unsalted butter, for greasing the pan

2 to 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) crumbled Oregon blue cheese

Pinch of kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

Pinch of ground nutmeg

4 to 6 fresh pasta sheets or 8 dried lasagna noodles (about 7 ounces) (See Cook’s Hint below)

1 cup whole-milk, part-skim, or fat-free ricotta cheese

8 ounces baby spinach leaves, blanched and coarsely chopped

12 fresh sage leaves

1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter an 8-by-12-inch baking pan and reserve.

To prepare the squash, cut off the ends, cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, then peel the halves from top to bottom with a sharp vegetable peeler or a small, sharp paring knife. Cut the halves lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Brush a baking sheet with the olive oil, arrange squash in a single layer on the baking sheet, and cook 30 to 35 minutes, or until soft.

Make sauce by bringing whipping cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 3 minutes, watching the cream carefully and stirring occasionally so it doesn’t boil over. Add 1/2 cup of the crumbled blue cheese, along with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat, cover, and reserve.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook fresh pasta sheets for 3 minutes or until al dente. If using dried lasagna noodles, cook according to package instructions. Remove pasta sheets, drain on paper towels, and reserve.

Make filling by mixing the remaining 1 cup blue cheese, ricotta, and spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble lasagna, place one pasta sheet in bottom of reserved baking pan, cutting and arranging the pasta so entire bottom of pan is covered. Layer with one-third of filling, then one-third of squash. Repeat until all the ingredients are used, ending with a sheet of pasta.

Pour sauce evenly over lasagna, arrange sage leaves on top, and sprinkle with hazelnuts.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown on top and heated all the way through.

To serve, cut into rectangles and divide among individual plates.

Serves 8

Cook’s Hint: Fresh pasta sheets vary in size. You will need enough pasta to cover four 8-by-12-inch layers. If you inadvertently buy extra, it can be sliced to the thickness you desire, cooked, and tossed into soups or used as a base for pasta entrées.