I don’t know what my favorite aspect about lasagna is: the fact that it is comfort food, the beautiful cheesy layers, or the fact that it can be customized for your mood or specific taste. You can load it up with veggies, with meat…heck, you can even use a white sauce instead of a red sauce on your lasagna. Whatever floats your boat!
Today, I’m happy that lasagna can be customized, because that is just what I did with this recipe. Fall squash is everywhere, and I wanted to incorporate butternut squash into a pasta recipe. There is something wonderful about the sweet flavor of butternut: many times it seems to be paired with brown butter sauce or something sweet, but I wanted to add in more savory flavors this time. Thus: my butternut squash, spinach, and bacon lasagna was born.
Why these ingredients? I just thought they sounded right. Sometimes there really isn’t a method to my madness…I just stand in the grocery store and see what items are on sale. Fresh spinach was (along with the butternut), and I had coupons to use for some bacon and ricotta cheese. It sounded like I could make a pretty tasty lasagna out of those ingredients, so I went with it. And I’m glad I did, because I am 100% sure I’ll be making this lasagna again in the very near future.
This dish was created in an 8×8 inch pan, and the yield was overwhelming for just Justin and myself. Whatever: I am not complaining about having to eat lasagna more than once! I remember hearing this phrase so many times as a kid: my grandmother (and mom) would always say “Italian food tastes better the next day.” Maybe it was a ploy for us to learn to love leftovers, but there IS something great about a dish that reheats well. Anyway, this lasagna lasted us about 4 meals until we were able to polish off the tray of Italian goodness.
And can I take a moment to comment on how PRETTY all the layers look? Each piece reminds me of a mosaic, and the colors make me smile. I only used 2 layers of lasagna noodles in my dish, but you can use more if you want to have more pasta in the lasagna. Since I try to eat “carb lite,” if you will, I settled on just two layers and it was more than enough for me! But I digress…
Let’s get on to the important part: how to make this in your own kitchen!
Butternut squash (about 3lb)
1/2 cup onion (1 medium sized brown onion)
9 oz fresh spinach (if you use frozen, thaw and drain it)
6 oz bacon, cooked and chopped (about 8-10 pieces)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded Italian cheese, plus 1/4 cup (separated)
2 cups fat free or reduced fat ricotta cheese
3 cups pasta sauce of your choice (1 jar)
4 oven ready lasagna noodles
1/4 tsp salt and pepper (each)
1. Bake/cook your butternut squash (if you need to know how to prepare a butternut squash, here’s a helpful video), either by placing cubes in a microwave safe dish and microwaving for 5-10 minutes until tender, or baking halves in the oven on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, then cubing. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F to cook the prepared lasagna.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a small drizzle of olive oil. Saute chopped onions for about 4 minutes, until tender. Add spinach and saute 2-3 minutes, until wilted.
3. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of shredded Italian cheese, the ricotta cheese, Italian seasoning, and eggs. Mix until fully combined.
4. Coat the bottom of an 8×8 inch square baking dish (sprayed with nonstick spray) with a few tablespoons of tomato sauce. Arrange 2 noodles over the sauce. Spread about 1 cup of the cheese mixture on top of the noodles, and then layer 1/2 of the butternut squash, spinach/onion, and bacon on top. Spread a generous portion of tomato sauce on top, and then layer two more lasagna noodles on top. Repeat procedure for the second layer of lasagna. Top the tomato sauce layer on to very top with the 1/4 cup of Italian cheese (you can add more to taste if you prefer a larger amount of cheese). Cover with foil.
5. Bake lasagna at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to sit 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
Are you a fan of lasagna? What is your favorite lasagna filing?