One thing about me is that the older I get, the more I love adding vegetables to something that is mostly cheese and pasta. They, of course, add nutritional value, but more importantly to me, add lots of bright flavor and body to balance out almost any volume of cheese. In this case, I find that freshly steamed butternut squash adds incredible, silky texture and sweet, earthy flavor to the usual bechamel sauce, and a skillet full of garlicky, spicy sautéed kale breaks through the richness of the cheese and the sauce. Of course, this IS lasagna, so there’s still a solid four-plus cups of salty, melty mozzarella cheese and sharp, tangy pecorino. I love using the oven-ready lasagna noodles here; they bake up perfectly in the oven, and save lots of time since lasagna already naturally has so many other elements before you can even begin assembly. Like most baked pastas, this one somehow tastes even better on day two or three, so it’s perfect for entertaining since it can be made the day before! And if you’d rather have it fresh and bubbling out of the oven, it can be assembled the day before and baked the day of. Serve it with a simple salad or green veggie, and your guests will never know how easy it was!
Butternut & Spicy Kale Lasagna
For the Butternut Squash Sauce:
- 4 cups 1-inch cubed butternut squash (about ½ one squash)
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- ½ cup grated pecorino
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Lasagna
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 bunches curly kale, leaves removed and chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 6 cups whole milk mozzarella
- ½ cup grated pecorino
- 1 9-ounce box oven ready lasagna noodles
- Nonstick spray, for greasing
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 13×9 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
- Place squash into a large bowl, or microwave steamer tray, with ¼ cup water. Cover and microwave for 7 minutes. Carefully remove and uncover to make sure squash is fork tender. If not, continue microwaving in 2 minutes increments until it is.
- While squash steams, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, then onion and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add kale and a large pinch of salt, then stir and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for another minute or so, or until kale is wilted and dark green, then set aside off heat.
- In the pitcher of a high speed blender or food processor, add squash, milk, pecorino, salt, pepper, and basil. Blend on high until smooth; mixture will be very thick. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to preference, then set aside.
- Combine cheeses in a large bowl and set aside.
- To assemble lasagna, spoon about 1/4 cup of sauce into the bottom of a 13×9. Add a layer of noodles, followed by approximately 1 cup of sauce, ½ cup kale mixture, and 1 cup cheese mixture. Continue layering in this order until all ingredients are used, ending with a layer of noodles. A small amount of sauce and cheese should be left to top the final layer of noodles.
- Bake for 30 minutes covered tightly with greased foil. Remove foil, then bake uncovered for another 20 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbling.
- Remove from oven and cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.