In a previous life, I was a saucier in a fancy French restaurant.
Every day, I made a variety of sauces. Basically, every dish on the menu had its own sauce.
This was not as hard as it sounds because almost every sauce is a variation of one of six mother sauces:
1. Espagnole – Veal or beef stock with tomato thickened with a dark roux.
2. Demi Glace – Veal stock reduced to a gelatinous thickness.
3. Tomato Sauce – Standard pasta sauce.
4. Bechamel Sauce – Milk with seasonings thickened with blonde roux.
5. Hollandaise Sauce – Egg yolks and seasonings thickened with clarified butter.
6. Veloute – White stock, usually chicken, thickened with blonde roux.
These sauces, all of which are on the culinary school final by the way, can then be used to make almost every other sauce in classical cuisine. For example:
Espagnole + Mushrooms = Chasseur Sauce
Veloute + Heavy Cream = Surpeme Sauce
Hollandaise + Tarragon, Shallots and Red Wine Vinegar = Bearnaise Sauce
I mention all this because a basic understanding of sauces is very helpful in everyday cooking. Today’s lasagna recipe, for example, uses a Bechamel sauce, whereas a traditional lasagna recipe would use a tomato sauce. But because we are using winter squash instead of meat protein, Bechamel is more appropriate. Tomato wouldn’t work.
For this low-fat recipe, I used acorn squash, but you could easily use butternut, carnivale or even pumpkin. This lasagna makes an excellent winter vegetarian entree.
Winter Squash and Spinach Lasagna
For the Bechamel Sauce
3 cups skim milk
1/2 cup fat free half and half
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp dried sage
For the Acorn Squash Filling
2 acorn squash
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 TBS EVOO
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
For the Spinach Filling
1 lb package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
16 oz tub fat free cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
For the Lasagna
9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
8 oz shredded fresh mozzarella (about 1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1. Cut acorn squash in half, scoop out seeds and strings, spray both sides with pan spray and place face down on baking sheet. Roast at 375F until soft, about 40 minutes. Cool, remove skin, then roughly mash. This can be done a day or two ahead of time.
2. Boil large pot of water. Add lasagna noodles and cook to al dente stage, which is slightly undercooked. The pasta will absorb the sauce as it cooks, so don’t overboil or it will be mushy at the end.
3. Put a large saute pan on the fire. When hot, add EVOO. When smoking, add garlic and rosemary and cook a moment, then add squash, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook about five minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
4. Return saute pan to fire. When hot, add EVOO. When smoking, add onion and cook until translucent, about three minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add spinach and cook about five minutes. Remove from pan and cool a few minutes. Then combine with cottage cheese and egg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
5.For the Bechamel, melt butter in sauce pan, then whisk in flour and continue whisking until roux is formed, about the consistency of oatmeal. Cook for about a minute or two, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, bring milk, half and half and sage to a boil in a sauce pan. Whisk in roux until thickened to the consistency of cream of mushroom soup.
6. To assemble lasagna, spray the bottom of a 9″x13″x2″ baking pan with pan spray, then line with three lasagna noodles. Spoon some sauce over the noodles, then add a layer of half the squash. Then add a layer of half the spinach. Then half the mozzrella and half the parmesan. Then more noodles and more sauce. Then the remaining squash, the remaining spinach, any remaining sauce, and the final three lasgana noodles. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top, then the remaining parmesan. This can be assembled the night before.
7. Cover with foil and cook in at 375F until brown and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook another 10 minutes to crisp the cheese. Let sit about 15 minutes before cutting, otherwise it can get goopy.
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