We slaughtered the first winter squash. I hereby declare the fall season open. No matter fall officially started three weeks ago, but the moment I start cooking with squash is the moment I truly embrace the change of season. Also, there are clues we no longer can ignore, like the cold, the rain and the turning leaves. Time to turn on the oven and cook dishes that require a bit more time.
And that’s exactly what I did – this dish required a better part of the afternoon to make. Which I did not mind since most of the time it did not need any direct involvement from me: the squash bakes one and a half hour but you don’t need to do anything to it during that time. You could also bake it in advance, to cut down the cooking time.
But the main reason I made the dish is because it is looked like fun – a fun twist on lasagna, not difficult to make but looking infinitely better.
It also contains a copious amount of vegetables, in a well-balanced combination of virtuous greens and a comforting squash puree, all doused in a garlicky tomato sauce. The bottom part of the rolls cooks tender in the sauce, but the top parts bake crisp.
I did not make a lot of changes to the recipe, except one that was necessary (using standard size lasagna sheets because I cannot get the large ones recommended in the recipe) and adding a lot more feta cheese – the recipe only used 50 g and I feel that the saltiness of the feta works so well against the sweet squash. As do the sage leaves – so don’t be too mean with them either.
p.s. The winter squash I used was “Rugosa Violina Gioia” of the butternut (moschata) type. They can be pretty disappointing in our climate, but have done well this year, thanks to our unusually hot summer. Other squashes can be substituted.
p.p.s. Chard which you’re probably more likely to have in the garden right now, could be substituted for the spinach.
Rotolo di pasta with winter squash and spinach
Adapted from Save with Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less
About the pan size: the recipe calls for a round baking dish 30 cm in diameter, mine is just 24 cm, but worked just fine, so anything between these two sizes should work.
1 butternut squash (about 1,2 kg)
1 red onion
1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
450 g (1 pound) frozen spinach
freshly grated nutmeg
4 cloves of garlic
700 ml passata di pomodoro
12 fresh lasagna sheets (mine are 10 x 15 cm)
150 g feta
20 g parmesan cheese
several sprigs of fresh sage
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (360 F).
Bake the squash whole on a baking sheet for 1 hour 30 minutes. Take it out of the oven and let cool a bit. Meanwhile, prepare the spinach. Peel and finely chop the onion. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and cook covered for about 15 minutes. Remove the lid towards the end to allow some of the water to evaporate. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and put it into a medium bowl. Mash it with a fork and season to taste with salt, pepper and freshly ground nutmeg.
Peel the garlic and slice it thinly. Heat a shallow oven-proof dish over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic, and fry until the garlic is lightly golden, Add the passata and cook for about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
On a clean work surface, lay out four lasagna sheets at a time (keep the rest covered to prevent them from drying out). Brush the sheets with water, then put on some of the squash puree, followed by the spinach. Crumble over the feta and roll the sheets up. Cut each sheet in half and place them side by side in the baking dish. Grate the parmesan on top and sprinkle with sage leaves, coated with a little olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden on top.