Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Cooked: Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

I won't beat around the bush - this recipe is a lot of work. Three hours and fifteen minutes from prep to table. Granted, I did not complete each step in the most efficient manner. I was actually out of milk, and I reached the step that involved it well before Jeff got home from the grocery store, so there was a certain period of inactivity in there. I imagine (if you're not waiting on ingredients) the sauce could be made while the vegetables are roasting. This would reduce the total time considerably.

By the time it was ready, I wasn't even hungry. My legs hurt from standing in the kitchen for so long. My arm ached from whisking the sauce for twelve straight minutes. My kitchen was a disastrous clutter of dirty pots and scattered cutlery.

One bite of that lasagna, and it was all worthwhile. All my tiredness melted away (well . . . it was at least forgotten momentarily). Holy creamy deliciousness, Batman! I had never had a b├ęchamel sauce before. Apparently I had not lived. I still have no idea how milk, flour and butter can create such a taste sensation. I could pour that into a bowl and eat it like soup (until an adult came by and stopped me). Combine that with the roasted vegetables (which I love in any preparation) and it is, as Guy Fieri would say, money. The light sweetness of the squash and sweet potatoes was an excellent compliment to the sauce, and not so overpowering as to render it dessert-like in any way. The red peppers added a nice flavor contrast. The leeks were mild enough to add flavor but not overwhelm the other elements. Upon reflection, I can't say I noticed the cheese very much. But I can't say that I cared, either.

When something is this delicious, who cares how long it takes to make? I plan on doing this recipe again and again and again. Just not on days that I work.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
From the Southern Living Farmers Market Cookbook.

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
1 small sweet potato, cut into 1/2" cubes
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 c sliced leeks (about 4)
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
4 c milk
4 garlic cloves, halved
3 tbsp butter
1/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
9 dried precooked lasagna noodles
1 c Asiago cheese, shredded
1 c whipping cream
1 c Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 450°. Microwave squash on high for 2 minutes. (This step scared me - the squash is not pierced or anything. I was afraid I'd have an explosion on my hands. Fortunately, two minutes isn't very long, so the squash, and my microwave, survived intact.) Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out and discard seeds. Peel squash and cut into 1/2" cubes. Put 3 c cubed squash in a large bowl and set aside remaining squash for another day (I had a huge 3 lb 6 oz squash, and 3 c was just about half of it). Add cubed sweet potato and 2 tbsp oil to the bowl and toss. Spread onto a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine leeks, bell pepper and 1 tbsp oil in the same bowl and toss. Add to partially-roasted squash mixture, stirring gently. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway. When the vegetables are finished roasting, return them to the bowl.

While the roasting is going on, combine milk and garlic in a large saucepan and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. (You do need to watch this carefully - milk goes from simmering to boiling over quite quickly, so I'd advise not leaving the room.) Discard garlic (and any icky milk-skin that might form - you don't want that in the finished product). Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in warm milk. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, 12-13 minutes or until slightly thickened (mine was very thickened by this point). Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper. Add to the roasted vegetable mixture, stirring gently.

Spoon 1/3 of vegetable mixture in to a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish. (Try not to sneak too many tastes.) Top with 3 lasagna noodles. Spread half the remaining mixture over the noodles and sprinkle half the Asiago cheese on top. Repeat with next 3 noodles, remaining vegetable mixture and remaining cheese. Break the remaining 3 noodles in half and lay on top of the casserole (this step seemed really weird to me until I realized it breaks it into easy-to-serve portions).

Decrease oven temperature to 350°. Beat cream at a high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form (this goes faster if you put the bowl and beaters into the freezer for 10 minutes beforehand). Spread whipped cream over noodles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. (Since my dish was filled to the brim, I also put it on a rimmed baking sheet, in case of spills. This ended up being an excellent idea.) Uncover and bake 13 minutes more or until golden and bubbly (mine took closer to 18 minutes to get golden-brown on top). Let stand 15 minutes before serving (if you can bear it!).

The directions say it yields 8 servings, but it seemed like 6 to me. But we did eat this as our entree. I assume if you had other things along with it, you might want a smaller portion.


  1. Never had a bechamel sauce? Can't make proper mac and cheese without one (I can point you in the right direction for that if you'd like). Welcome to a whole new world of delicious, Kristin.

  2. Actually, I don't like good mac and cheese. I like the fake kind. Although I think that's mainly because I'm not a fan of the bread crumbs on top. I'd like to see your recipe - maybe I'll be converted ;)

  3. Wow Kristin! That looks and sounds awesome!
    I'm so hungry now! :-)

  4. Saw this and thought of you:

    And this is the mac and cheese recipe I always use, but I never buy expensive cheese. I use extra sharp cheddar and parmesan. I also urge you to try Deb's take on breadcrumbs. SO DELICIOUS, and head and shoulders above the normal breadcrumbs (which I, like you, dislike).

  5. Thanks, Kat! That mac and cheese does look good. I've added it to my (ridiculously long) idea list :)