At the end of December, Gary and I hosted our oldest nephew, Robby, and his study group from Carroll University’s physical therapy program for supper. Robby lived with me and Gary last semester while he was finishing up the last bit of his academic coursework and we heard about his study buddies throughout the semester. We invited them to all have supper with us on one of their last nights together before they all scattered for clinical rotation internships all over the United States this semester.
My default entree for large groups in the winter is lasagna. Just days before our meal with Robby and his gang, I came across a recipe for lasagna with a pumpkin sauce in the cookbook, Purely Pumpkin, by Allison Day. Allison blogs about her cooking adventures at www.yummybeet.com. She graciously gave me permission to include the recipe here (thanks, Allison!) and I encourage you to try it while lasagna is still a great way to heat the house this winter. I didn’t get a picture of the lasagna before setting the hot pans on the dining room table. This is the picture that I texted to our family afterwards. Brother-in-law Michael (Robby’s dad) texted back, “Are those lick marks in the pans?!” Not quite, but this was all that remained after feeding 9 hungry graduate students and their hosts! Consider this a credible endorsement and create some lasagna goodness for you and your family. The recipe looks long (lasagna recipes always do, don’t they?), but it is super easy and comes together quickly once all of the elements are prepped.
Pumpkin Lasagna with Pumpkin Orange Bechamel & Ricotta Parmesan Bechamel – makes 1 9″x9″ pan
For the Ricotta Parmesan Béchamel Sauce (base):
3 tablespoons butter
3 T all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk at room temperature
1 C whole milk ricotta
1 C Parmesan cheese, grated
1 t dried oregano
¼ t grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
For the Pumpkin Orange Béchamel
1 C Ricotta Parmesan Béchamel (from above)
2 C roasted pumpkin or squash, mashed, or 1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
Zest of 1 orange
7 – 9 lasagna noodles (cooked if serving that day, uncooked if resting overnight)
1- 20 oz. jar roasted red peppers and juice
To make ricotta bechamel sauce:
In a stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook, continuing to whisk, until fragrant. Whisking constantly, gradually add the milk. Whisk to prevent any lumps from forming and cook until thickened and bubbling and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Whisk in the ricotta, Parmesan, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
To make the pumpkin sauce, scoop 1 cup of the base sauce into a bowl and stir in the mashed pumpkin and orange zest. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
To assemble and layer:
Into the bottom of a 9 x 9-inch baking dish, spread the juice from the roasted peppers and a thin layer of the pumpkin bechamel sauce. Arrange a layer of noodles (they will be too long, so break and reserve the broken pieces to be used in a later layer), and then a layer of plain béchamel sauce. Cover with a layer of roasted peppers. Alternate layers of pumpkin béchamel, noodles, plain béchamel, and roasted peppers. Continue until ending with a final layer of base and pumpkin béchamel sauce to cover the noodles. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover, and put on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 – 25 minutes. Broil for the last 2 – 5 minutes to achieve a golden brown top. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. If refrigerating overnight, remove from fridge for an hour before baking.