Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Italian with an Autumn Twist

Have I ever mentioned that Autumn is my favorite time of year? It is one of the main reasons Daniel and I wed at this time of year, plus, the leaves are changing, the weather is cooling. And the food? Warm, spicy, earthy. I think I love the food of Autumn best.

I have been wanting to make a Butternut Squash Lasagna for ages, but lasagna making is not in my repertoire, plus Daniel never seems too excited at the mention of it. Before we left on vacation, I had bought a nice butternut squash but hadn't found a time to eat it yet. It sat on the counter during our vacation (our food has a way of doing that :) and when we got back it sat for a week more. Finally I said to Daniel it had to be eaten, no matter what we were going to have it with. It was still fine, of course, but I abhor spoiled food, and I abhor even more food that isn't quite spoiled enough to eat, but enough to notice it is on it's way out when you eat it! We thought and thought. He wanted pasta. I figured I could find a way to make it work with pasta. He threw out the idea of Squash Parmesan. I scoffed, "Its Eggplant Parmigiana, dear..."
He laughed, "Oh, yea..." and we kept our brains turning for something else. Hey, what ABOUT Butternut Squash Parmesean? We could make it with a bechamel sauce! And so, the idea formulated into a recipe.
While Daniel was hard at work making money for us, I was at home, trying to figure out how I'd pull this off. I knew Parmesan was good on butternut squash, surprisingly, (probably because it is so salty and it contrasts very well with the sweet winter squash).

Daniel and I usually only eat a half of a butternut squash at one time, so I cut off the round bottom (the part with the seed cavity) and only used the top. I sliced it into 1/4 inch slices and cut off the rind. If you wanted to use the bottom as well, I would suggest cutting the top (skinny) part off and slicing it the way I have, then, slice the round bottom part the opposite direction, so that you have thin rings.
I beat an egg with a few teaspoons of milk in a bowl. I had my regular homemade breadcrumbs, plus a few leftover Panko crumbs I had stashed in the freezer (I so hate wasted food!), so I threw those in for crunch. And of course, I mixed in just a little grated Parmesan cheese, as well as salt, pepper, and my standard squash herbs - thyme and sage. I coated the squash slices with the egg solution then covered them in breadcrumbs. I repeated the process one more time, and placed them on a baking sheet. I placed the slices in the oven at 350 F for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, I cleaned up, then began the pasta, as well as a bechamel that would be turned into a mornay of sorts. I started with a roux of white flour and about 4 tablespoons of butter (yes butter!) over medium heat. Once the butter was melted and mixed in well with the flour, I added enough milk until I had the consistency I wanted. (Be careful here or you will scorch the milk!) I added some thyme and then whisked in some parmesan cheese, about 1/2 a cup. At this point it was too thick so I added some more milk to get it back to the consistency I wanted, all in all I'd say it was about 1-2 cups total.

After about 40 minutes in the oven, the squash was golden-brown and ready to take out. I arranged some pasta on a plate, topped with a few crunchy squash slices, then drizzled with the parmesan 'mornay.' Rewarding myself with a bite after photgraphing it really WAS a reward! (Sometimes our experiments don't turn out so great of course, but this one was wonderful) The salty parmesan cheese and crunchy coating on the squash contrasted wonderfully with the sweet flesh of the squash. The cream sauce also added a nice touch.

I'm submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth this week. Thinking outside the box doesn't have to be hard, and this goes to show it can be delicious too!Stumble Upon Toolbar

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Michele said...

Looks delish! Isn't it great when you make something up on a whim and it works?!?! I am going to check out these presto pasta nights i've been hearing about. I make lots of pasta.

shizuokagourmet said...

Dear Corinne!
Greetings from Shizuoka, Japan!
This dish is very Japanese in concept, actually.
Just showing that good food is becoming global!

The Blonde Duck said...

Cool! Looks great.

Ivy said...

Wow, this dish sounds perfect.

Ruth Daniels said...

Great dish! Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

Linda said...

Ahhh...white lasagna! This looks so good!

Mary said...

Very creative.It looks delicious and I loved the story of how it came to be.

Lore said...

Drooooooool! Not having had pasta in more than two days is preventing me from having controlled reactions. OMG drool again, I really love how you cooked the squash and then add it to the pasta dish for a crunchy touch. Genius!