butternut squash skillet lasagna

Let me apologize right now for the complete and total lack of process and finished photography of today's dish.  Sara requested this delicious casserole a few days ago and when I was assembling the ingredients yesterday I realized the one ingredient I was missing was butternut squash.  Really?  The main ingredient?  I have three other types of squash in the basket in the pantry but forgot that I oven roasted my butternut squash on the weekend.  Oops.  Thankfully the wonderfully convenient Harvest Market in my neighborhood was happy to sell me a lovely butternut squash.  Probably the best part about that story is that I can ride my bike to the Harvest Market and didn't have to roll the Odyssey out one more time.  I had a busy afternoon finishing my deck staining fun and wrapping up laundry for Kelly to take back to Purdue.  That's a seriously long justification for why I did not manage to take any pictures.

This does not sound like the world's easiest recipe, but if you break it down into some steps it's worth the bit of work.  The first step should be gathering your ingredients.  I used no-boil lasagna from Barilla which takes out a step, hurray.  I peeled and sliced my butternut squash, but you can buy chunks of peeled squash in the refrigerator section of Trader Joe's and Costco.  To prep your own, slice the long neck of the squash at it's base separating it from the round end (which has the seeds and very little usable flesh).  Cut off the stem end so you have two flat ends to work with.  Use your nice sharp chef's knife (8-10" knife with a hefty blade, mine is a Santoku chef's knife) to peel the skin from the flesh.  Cut the entire neck across the middle and you have two manageable cylinders of peeled squash.  For this recipe slice off thin sheets for quicker cooking.  Shape does not matter.  Cut and turn and keep slicing.  You also should freshly grate your Parmesan-Reggiano cheese before you begin (of course you can buy the pre-grated/shredded Parmesan in the tubs, I just have a nice big wedge from Costco on hand at all times).  I like the fresh chicken Italian sausage links from Whole Foods in the meat case (I bought 4 links for this dish).  I have also used the Turkey Store Italian sausage links.  Both times I just grab the links and squeeze out the sausage into the pan.  A little extrusion process that's a bit messy, but you can do it.

This recipe is adapted from Williams-Sonoma and greatly lightened.  I use a big non-stick skillet for the onions, sausage and then the white sauce and use my favorite Le Creuset buffet casserole (covered skillet) for the baking.  Use what you have as long as it is ovenproof.

Butternut Squash Skillet Lasagna

1 T olive oil
1 large yellow or sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (start with 1/2 tsp of each)
1 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed (I like chicken or turkey sausages)
2 T unsalted butter
1/4 C flour
3 C skim milk
I C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp fresh sage, minced (or 1 tsp dried sage)
6 -8 no boil lasagna noodles
2-3 pound butternut squash, neck portion only, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 C chicken broth (can use up to 2 C of broth)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Saute onion for 8 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic, salt and pepper and cook an additional 30 seconds.  Transfer to a bowl.  In the same pan, cook the sausage until slightly brown (8-10 minutes) breaking it into small pieces as you go.  Drain sausage if necessary (it isn't with the lean chicken sausage from Whole Foods) and add to onion mixture in bowl.

Wipe the pan and return it to medium heat to melt the butter.  Add the flour and stir to cook for a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk (a flat whisk works well here), increase heat to medium high and continue to whisk and cook until thickened (6-8 minutes).  Stir in 3/4 C of the cheese, the sage and season with a little salt and pepper.

Spread about 1/3 C of the sauce thinly on the bottom of the baking skillet.  Top with a single layer of noodles (my skillet takes two, the no-boil noodles are short and wide).  Spread that noodles with another 1/3 C of sauce (it's fine if you just kind of spoon the sauce on and mainly cover the noodles and just drop a bit more around the noodles), 1/3 of the sausage mixture and 1/3 of the squash.  Repeat the layering two more times, turning the noodles perpendicular of the prior layer and filling in with the sausage and squash.  You should have about 1/3-1/2 C of sauce left in the cooking pan.  Turn up the heat again on this sauce and whisk in the chicken broth and continue to whisk until thickened somewhat (obviously it will be a little thinner than the all-milk original sauce).  Pour this extra sauce over the entire dish making sure to cover all noodles.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 C cheese.  Cover casserole with foil and bake 45 minutes removing the foil the last 5 minutes to brown the cheese a bit (non-stick foil is good for this).
Let stand 5 minutes and serve.

Serve with a nice salad and some warm crusty bread.  Mmmmmm.... love fall food!


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