This lasagne is probably one of the nicest things I’ve cooked in ages. While I’m definitely not a vegetarian (sorry fluffy animals, you’re still not safe from me), I do love good vegetarian food and during the week I often unintentionally go a few days without eating meat as a result. Vegetarian options are so much much better nowadays compared to when I was younger. A friend of mine is vegetarian and when she was small going for family dinners meant getting a portion of potatoes or chips and a bowl of carrots and broccoli. There were hardly any decent veggie offerings. Now there is so much delicious vegetarian options that it makes forgoing meat so much easier.
Butternut squash is my favourite vegetable for cooking, it’s just so full of flavour, sweet and hearty. I’m always using it in soups, on bruschettas, in stews, risottos and recently in hummus too. I like squash okay? I thought it would make a great tasty but filling addition to a nice veggie lasagne. The spinach and ricotta give it a nice bit of cheesy naughtiness too. I made my own pasta, but you can use dried or fresh pasta just fine. This is so good I urge you to make it immediately. It’s the vegetable’s moment to shine… And nobody puts my butternut squash in the corner.
1 box of pasta sheets
2 butternut squashes
salt and pepper
1 bag spinach
1 tub / 250g ricotta (Try use Toonsbridge if you can find it… Amazing!)
salt & pepper
1 heaped tbsp flour
1 heaped tbsp butter
1 tsp nutmeg
350ml milk (maybe a little more)
1 handful parmesan cheese
Peel the two squashes, cut into cubes and roast in a little oil with salt and pepper in an oven (around 180-200C) for 45mins to and hour until soft. You’ll need to stir them around every 10 mins or so. when the squash is done mash most of it, leaving some slightly lumpy bits for a bit of bite. Grate in the zest of the lemon, a squeeze of it’s juice and season generously with salt and pepper. Have a taste and adjust as necessary.
Wilt the spinach in a large pan in a little oil and when wilted stir in the ricotta, a teaspoon of nutmeg and again be generous with the salt and pepper. Make sure to taste your seasoning as you go along.
To make the béchamel sauce in a pot on a medium low heat pop the flour and butter in and stir for a minute so it cooks a little, then whisk in the milk gradually to allow it to thicken. When it’s just about done stir in the cheese. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
No matter what type of pasta sheets you are using (homemade, fresh or dried) make sure to pop them into a pot of boiling water before assembling… This is important! They only need a minute to soften so they cook nicely and get a nice texture. If the pasta you are using is homemade, it may only need 20-30 seconds.
Assemble! In a casserole dish lay a layer of pasta sheets then pour a little bit of béchamel sauce and half the squash. Top this layer with more pasta sheets and a little more sauce, then lay on top of this all of your spinach mix. Then lay another layer of pasta sheets, sauce and the remaining squash. Finish with a top layer of pasta and the remaining sauce (be generous with the sauce on the top layer). Grate some of the parmesan cheese on top.
Pop into an oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes until golden and bubbly on top. Serve hot from the oven with a side salad… Heavenly!
Last weekend I went home to Cork for the Taste of West Cork Festival. Lots of amazing food was eaten, copious amounts of blackberry jam was made and my sister and her boyfriend made me dinner! I was really impressed with this dish and decided to recreate it last night for a friend who was coming over to dinner. I have to say this is one of my all-time favourite comforting meals! This cheesy spinach and bacon lasagne was so comforting yet so tasty. My sister used Gubbeen Smoked bacon which was amazing, but I used cooked ham, and this dish is great to use up leftover cooked ham from the weekend if you’re having a traditional Sunday lunch. If you’re a vegetarian, leave out the bacon & it’s equally mouth-watering.
This dish is seriously tasty and seriously cheesy! Buying great cheese makes a great difference. I am I serious Toonsbridge Dairy fan, as most of my blog readers know, and used their Irish buffalo mozzarella and buffalo ricotta. I suggest buying fresh lasagne sheets as it does decreases cooking time (30 to 40 minutes instead of an hour!) I made my own pasta sheets as since getting a pasta machine, I’m playing away with it a lot. It makes such a difference, but it doesn’t matter too much if you used dried it will still be a winner. It’s best served with a salad. My dish was a small one and serves 4 comfortably, so just increase the quantities roughly if you’re feeding more people. Leftover portions are great frozen for a quick meal the following week. Enjoy and let me know what you think! If you have any unusual lasagne fillings I’d love to hear them as I experiment with my pasta machine!
Ingredients (serves 6):
For the cheesy sauce:
500ml whole milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
For the lasagne:
Lasagne sheets (enough to cover your dish for four layers)
200g cooked ham (thickly sliced) or smoked streaky bacon lightly fried
400g baby spinach
200g ricotta cheese
Handful pine nuts
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (more flavoursome than powdered nutmeg)
1 ball mozzarella
Extra grated parmesan for sprinkling on top
Fry pine nuts in a dry pan for a minute until they brown and set aside. They burn quickly so keep your eye on them!
Make the sauce first by adding all ingredients to saucepan except the Parmesan cheese over a medium flame. Whisk for about 3 to 5 minutes until its hot and thickened, then turn down heat, add Parmesan cheese and stir for a few minutes. Season with a little cracked black pepper. Remove from heat & cover with kitchen towel or foil to prevent skin forming.
Wash spinach and dry. Place in a pan with some butter and salt. Stir gently until spinach is lightly wilted. Remove when cooked and squeeze out moisture (you may need to pat off excess water with a kitchen towel.) Add ricotta cheese and a half cup of the sauce, stir together and season with salt, pepper & nutmeg.
Now it is time to assemble! Spread enough sauce to cover the base of your lasagne dish, then add a layer of pasta. Add a layer with half of your spinach mix. Then a layer of pasta sheets. Then a layer of sliced mozzarella and ham. Then a layer of spinach and pine nuts. Cover with pasta and pour the remaining sauce over the top.
Cook for 30 to 40 minutes until golden. If your lasagne starts to brown too quickly, cover with tinfoil and pop back in to the oven. When cooked garnish with a little grated Parmesan and any leftover toasted pine nuts.
Enjoy, preferably with a large glass of wine if it’s going!