I love to cook. I was thinking recently about how this happened and how it has evolved. Everybody has some sort of creativity in their soul. Me, I love to write. Not really good at it, but it is something I enjoy. I am realizing the joy of taking good pictures, but I am a major novice with lots to learn. Cooking is my true creative outlet. It feeds me emotionally (no pun intended). It soothes me. It relaxes me. It makes me zen.
And it is the way I show my love to my family and friends.
Why did I share all of this? Because I made this recipe for a birthday lunch for a dear friend.
Butternut Squash Lasagna.
One of the best things I have had in my mouth for a long time. Or as a friend recently said about a soup "too good to swallow"! It was simple to make, but the flavors were complex. It looked pretty on a plate, so it was perfect for company. Oh, and did I mention that the taste was phenomenal?
Sounds strange? Dont be afraid. Try it. It might cause you to wax poetic about your love for cooking. I did.
Butternut Squash Lasagna (Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
2 12oz boxes frozen winter squash
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 amaretti cookies, crumbled
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, parcooked 5 minutes
2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
Thaw the squash in the refrigerator then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. Season the squash puree, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender*. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times.
Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.
*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.