It’s been many years since I’ve made the main Thanksgiving meal, but this year I have the honor. And of course, being vegetarian, Thanksgiving dinner at my house is anything but traditional. I remember one year making what essentially was a pile of veggies and seitan in a delicious sauce, covered with puff pastry, then baked (it was sort of supposed to resemble the shape of a turkey). It was a huge hit, but sadly, I didn’t keep the recipe and have never been able to find it, despite endless Google searches.
This year, the usual hosts are going to another side of their family for the big celebration, so we, I’m happy to say, will take over the hosting duties for the rest of the family. With a busy schedule leading up to the holiday, basing our meal around a entrée that won’t require a ton of advanced prep time and will allow me to actually participate in the appetizers and drinks part of the party, is important.
That’s the nice thing about lasagna. You can prep all the ingredients ahead of time and pop it in the oven while you and your guests enjoy time together before sitting down to dinner. The only extras needed are a salad and maybe some good quality bread; no menagerie of side dishes required. But not a conventional lasagna. I want something seasonal, with butternut squash and mushrooms, that isn’t too rich.
I looked at a lot of recipes and most had a béchamel or white sauce in place of the typical tomato, which can be heavy. The recipe I chose to adapt replaces the béchamel with a squash sauce that is amazing! The lemon zest just takes it over the top and makes for a truly unique and memorable (in a very good way) dish.
It’s also a very adaptable recipe. You can change the cheese if you can’t find Gruyere, change up the mushroom variety to what’s accessible, and use any hearty green. You can even add some veggie sausage if you want a more robust meal. I made a half recipe in an 8 x 8 pan as a taste test and it’s definitely holiday company-worthy, and I’m quite sure no one will miss the meat. Enjoy!
Mushroom Lasagna with Butternut Squash Sauce
Can easily be halved and cooked in an 8 x 8 pan—cooking time remains the same
1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles, preferably whole wheat
2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash (or 2 pounds chopped squash)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large bunch chard, kale, or beet greens, washed, ribs/stems removed and cut into thin ribbons
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
½ pound oyster mushrooms, cleaned and broken apart
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 dry white wine
1 cup milk (between 2% and whole), plus additional if needed
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Zest of one medium-sized lemon
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves, plus extra for the top of the lasagna
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
½ cup shredded parmesan
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and seed the squash, then cut into 1-inch cubes and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes or until soft, tossing a couple times to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and set aside to cool a bit.
While the squash is cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a 10-12-inch frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms. Cook without stirring until brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn them over and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped chard leaves and the white wine and cook until the greens are tender and wilted. Turn off the heat and season the vegetables lightly with salt and pepper.
Place the cooled squash into a large bowl and add 1/2 cup milk, the nutmeg, lemon zest and thyme. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, adding the remaining milk as you go (this can also be done in a regular blender). Add extra milk if necessary to make the sauce smooth and creamy, but not too thin. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Lightly oil or butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. To assemble the lasagna, spoon about 1/4 of the butternut sauce into the bottom of the prepared pan and spread to thinly coat the bottom. Place 1/4 of the noodles on top and then spread 1/3 of remaining sauce on noodles. Top with 1/2 of the mushroom/greens mixture, and 1 cup of Gruyere cheese. Add another layer of noodles, then sauce, then the rest of the vegetables, and the remaining Gruyere. Top with the final layer of noodles and spread the last 1/3 of the sauce over top. Sprinkle evenly with the parmesan and a pinch of thyme leaves.
Cover the lasagna with foil and bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheese is gooey. Remove from the oven and let stand uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving. A nice green salad and some good bread make this a meal.