Monday, November 12, 2012

Butternut Squash Lasanga with Pork Ragu

Over the summer I watched an episode of Anne Burrell’s show on the food network, she happened to be cooking a gluten free meal. I knew immediately that I wanted to try the butternut squash lasagna recipe, it looked amazing. At the time squash wasn’t in season so I saved the recipe and waited for a better time to try it.

After hurricane Sandy hit us and left us without power for a week, I was really looking forward to cooking and baking as soon as we got our power back. This recipe was perfect for my first night back in the kitchen for two reasons: my mother-in-law offered me fresh picked butternut squash from their garden and it served enough people to allow me to invite my extended family over for a meal to thank them for all the hot showers and dinners over the past week. (They happened to have hot water and a gas stove top, but no power)

I was so happy with how this recipe came out; I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. I would categorize this recipe under intermediate, unless you have a child under 2 years old, then I was put this under the extremely difficult category. At the very least make this recipe during nap time. Layla tore apart the kitchen as I cooked and when I turned around all my tea bags were opened. I was left with a baby covered in blueberry tea leaves!

My suggestion would be to make the pork ragu (which is amazing on its own) ahead of time or the day before. Then you can finish the other components of the lasagna and assemble in less time. You can prepare the entire recipe the day of but it is just a little time consuming…BUT WELL WORTH IT!! I am definitely going to make this again and again and I would feel very confident serving this dish to any crowd of people that make their way into my dining room.

Please don’t think this recipe is for gluten free eating only. It will impress anyone who loves lasagna. I really hope you try this one out. Enjoy!!!!!

Butternut Squash Lasanga with Pork Ragu (Recipe from Anne Burrell-
Serves 8-10
Butternut Squash Lasanga with Pork Ragu


Pork Ragu:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1-inch dice
1/2 fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 pounds ground pork
1 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups pureed canned tomatoes
4 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 fresh thyme bundle

3 butternut squash, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably on a mandoline
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms, or any kind you like, stemmed and sliced
2 pounds washed baby spinach (I used a mixture of baby spinach and frozen)
1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 cups grated Parmesan

For the pork ragu:
1. Place the garlic, celery, onions and fennel in a food processor and puree to a coarse paste.

2. Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and toss in the pureed veggies. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and season generously with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Cook the veggies until they start to get brown and form a crust on the bottom of the pan; (be patient...this will take a little time.) Scrape the crud off the bottom of the pan and let it re-form. Stay with it and DO NOT let it burn.

3.Add the ground pork, sprinkle with salt and repeat this process. This takes patience...accept it and move on. THIS is where BIG flavors are formed.

4. When the meat is nice and brown, add in the tomato paste, stir to combine and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the white wine and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Toss in the pureed tomatoes, bay, cinnamon stick, thyme and 2 cups water. Taste and season with salt if needed. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, add more water and reduce again. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Turn off the heat and use immediately or store for future use.

For the lasagna: 

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Working in batches, toss the butternut squash slices with olive oil and salt. Lay the squash slices on sheet trays and bake until the squash is tender but still holds its shape, about 20 minutes. Repeat until all the squash is roasted.

2.Coat a large saute pan with olive oil, toss in 2 of the garlic cloves and a pinch of crushed red pepper and bring the pan to a medium-high heat. When the garlic is golden and very aromatic, remove it and toss it in the "thank you for coming bowl". Add half of the mushrooms to the pan, season with salt and cook until they are soft and wilted. Remove from the pan and reserve. Repeat this whole process--starting with the oil and garlic--with the remaining mushrooms, followed by the spinach in 2 batches. Drain and cool the cooked spinach in a colander or mesh strainer.

3. In a large bowl combine the ricotta and parsley.

4. To assemble: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place a ladleful of the pork ragu in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and spread it around to LIGHTLY cover the bottom of the dish.

5. Arrange an even layer of the roasted squash on top of the ragu; be sure the squash completely covers the surface of the baking dish--this acts as the "pasta". Cover the squash layer generously with more ragu. Spoon 1-tablespoon scoops of the ricotta mixture over the ragu. Arrange an even layer of spinach and mushrooms over the ricotta. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Lay another layer of squash over the Parmesan and repeat the process until the baking dish is full, ending with a top layer of squash topped with a little ragu and Parmesan.

6. Cover the baking dish with foil, place on a sheet tray and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

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