Ah, January. The month where it seems everyone has succumbed to the siren calls of diets, detoxing and temperance in a futile bid to wash all of the bad habits out of their systems. Whenever I go online at the moment, I’m met with calls to give up alcohol for an entire month (I’m looking at you here Facebook – you’ll pry my beloved red wine from my cold dead hands) and embrace living on 500 calories a day while whipping up a delicious ‘Winter Salad’ (ingredients: leftover sprouts and crystallised misery). As you may have guessed, I have no truck with this mass display of puritanism. After all, January is the most miserable month of the year – 31 days of darkness, biting cold and abject skintness. Why shouldn’t we all indulge in a little bit of unbridled hedonism? It’s either that or go to the gym.
I would like to think that this Butternut Squash Lasagne goes some way towards mollifying people’s urge for a healthy meal that is comforting and (most importantly) COVERED IN CHEESE. I’ve taken a fairly standard lasagne recipe and subbed the pasta sheets for huge hunks of butternut squash, which – when roasted – becomes wonderfully soft, earthy and sweet. If you’re baulking at the idea of sticking turkey in a bolognese sauce, well, it’s your loss, but it can easily be substituted with lean beef mince.
So, the next time you’re looking forlornly out of your office window wondering if there’s anything you can have for dinner that’s nutritious but doesn’t contain kale, why not treat yourself to a gigantic pile of butternut squash lasagne? It tastes much better than a Weight Watchers Ready Meal and serves as a reminder that healthy eating doesn’t mean depriving yourself of the occasional hunk of melted mozzarella.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH LASAGNE (Makes four portions)
You will need:
For the Turkey Bolognese
- 200g turkey mince
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp rosemary
- ½ tsp oregano
- 1 bay leaf
For the bechamel sauce
- 1 pint of milk
- 2 bay leaves
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 50g unsalted butter
- 50g plain flour
For the lasagne
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large chunks
- 250g ricotta
- 150g mozzarella
- Heat your oven to 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 4.
- Make your turkey bolognese: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized saucepan and brown the turkey mince in batches. Set to one side. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the pan, and cook your diced onion, celery, and carrot for around five minutes until they begin to turn soft. Add the tomato paste and diced garlic and gently cook for another 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes, rosemary, oregano and bay leaves, season with salt and pepper, then simmer the sauce for half an hour until it has thickened. You don’t want it to be too thin, as then it will make everything horribly watery.
- While your bolognese is simmering, make the bechamel sauce: Place the milk in a large non-stick saucepan, add the bay leaves and nutmeg and bring to a gentle simmer. In a separate saucepan melt the butter and add the flour. Beat well and cook for two minutes. Remove the milk from the heat and add a little to the flour mixture. Combine well, and when all the milk has been absorbed, add a little more. Keep doing this until all the milk has been added, whisking continually. By the end, you should have a smooth, lump-free sauce.
- Assemble your masterp iece: Spoon a third of the bechamel sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Add a layer of butternut squash chunks and a handful of crumbled ricotta. Follow this with a layer of the turkey bolognese sauce. Repeat until all of the ingredients have been used up, and top with chunks of torn mozzarella.
- Cover the casserole dish with a lid (or some foil) and bake at 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes. Then, remove the lid/foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes. The lasagne is done when the cheese has turned brown and bubbly, and the butternut squash is soft.
- Serve with a green salad and a glass of wine.