Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pumpkin Lasagna

So not to confuse you if you have already read this....But I am doing a slight edit so I can enter this recipe in a contest over at the CSI Project, thecsiproject.com.  I am so nervous.  I feel like I am running for prom queen;)

Hi all.  Fall is finally here.  And I mean fall is here….in a big way.  We are supposed to get a dusting of snow tonight, and the higher mountains are going to get 5 to 10 inches.  Whhhaaaattt?  It is the beginning of October!  And I just put out my Halloween decorations.  I guess I will be re-decorating when this storm is done.  Last year we didn’t get any snow until the beginning of November.  I don’t like what this implies;)  It doesn’t bode well.  On the bright side, I did just get a super cute new jacket from Old Navy, so at least I’m not rocking it in 70 degree weather.

So between getting out the heavy jackets, (which btw-I found old candy in Paisley’s…gross!), the gloves, and the boots….I still managed to make a crazy good Pumpkin Lasagna.
Feeling skeptical?  Are you one of those people that think pumpkin can only be sweet?  Wrong!!  Pumpkin is so good in savory dishes.  If you like butternut squash or even sweet potatoes, I am pretty sure you will like this.  Like 99% sure.  If I felt that strongly about other things I would be spending a whole lot of time downtown at the sports book.
Let me warn you that this lasagna is not low fat.  Is any lasagna?  However, I am not suggesting you eat this daily.  This is a special fall treat that you should feel free to enjoy.  A little fat will help keep your coat shiny, right?  I also don’t suggest you eat this on a daily basis because, honestly, lasagna can be a pain in the butt to make.  It isn’t hard, but it is a lot of steps.  But once you taste this lasagna, you will know it was worth it.  It has a great pumpkin taste and it is super cheesy.  Not cheesy like lame, but gooey, melty, cheesy.  And the sage and sausage give it a herby deliciousness.  Pumpkin and sausage work perfectly together.  What could be better than layers of noodles, cheese, pumpkin and sausage?  I like to imagine that they serve this in heaven.  Except I don’t have to make it.
For this recipe, I used a 16 ounce box of lasagna noodles, whole milk, canned pumpkin, butter, fresh sage, ricotta, sage flavored pork sausage, mozzarella, gruyere cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs and flour.  Whew-that’s a lotta ingredients.  And I forgot to get the salt and pepper in there….
I used lasagna noodles that require boiling first.  I find that the “oven ready” variety end up hard in certain parts.  I highly suggest using the kind you have to boil, as that is what I tested the recipe with.  Who knows what would happen with the other kind.  Probably nothing good.
I started by grating all the cheeses.  Ok, ok….I suckered Chris into doing it.  Little tip-freeze the mozzarella before trying to shred it.  Just 30 minutes in the freezer should work.
Next, I browned the sausage.  This was hard to get a picture of.  I had to blow away the steam first and then take a picture as fast as I could.  Oh the things I do for you;)
Once the sausage was browned, I took it out of the pan and set it aside for a bit.
I also boiled my noodles as the sausage cooked.  I put about a tablespoon of oil in the water to keep the noodles from sticking.  When they were cooked, a little undercooked actually, I drained them and laid them out on a cookie sheet that I had sprayed with cooking spray.  I undercook the noodles a bit so that they can continue cooking in the oven later without getting mushy.  I only undercooked them by about a minute.  Don’t take them out while they are still hard.
This is a picture of my ricotta filling, before I mixed it.  This is a whole carton of ricotta, two eggs, one cup of pumpkin, about two cups of mozzarella, fresh chopped sage, and salt & pepper.  Normally, I would also throw in some chopped parsley, but the Walmartz was not flush with fresh herbs.  They didn’t have any fresh parsley, and I was too lazy to go anywhere else.  If you have parsley, throw it in!
It is such a pretty color when it is mixed, like a pretty pale peach color.  Try not to sample too much of the cheese mixture.  It is good, but it has raw eggs in it.  I still tried it.  Courtney, meet salmonella.
The last step before assembling this bad boy is to make the pumpkin béchamel.  It is so easy to make a béchamel, and it really is the base for a ton of sauces.  If you can make this…you are set.  You could perhaps get a job as a saucier.  That’s a real job!
I put about 3 tablespoons of butter into a medium sized pot.  I let that melt.  Once it was melted, I added 3 tablespoons of flour and whisked.  This is a “roux”.
No, that isn’t paste.  That is my roux, and that is the color you want.  You have to cook it for a minute or two to get rid of the paste taste.  Once you have done that, you slowly whisk in about 4 cups of milk.  Whisk the whole time and keep your pot over medium heat.  Seriously, don’t walk away.  You will get a lumpy béchamel and nobody wants that.  As the mixture comes to a boil, it will thicken.
Once it has thickened, you can add about 1 cup of pumpkin, and your gruyere cheese.  You also need to salt and pepper this.  Feel free to eat this by the spoonful, no raw eggs.  I took a bath in it;)
Are you curious what gruyere cheese tastes like?  It is kind of like Swiss cheese, but harder.  It is nutty and slightly sweet.  It works perfectly in this lasagna.
We are now ready to layer.  Yeah!  Who else gets excited to layer lasagna?  Nobody?  Bueller, Bueller?  Anyone?
In the bottom of a 9 by 13 baking dish, put about a cup of your pumpkin béchamel down.  This will keep the bottom layer of pasta from getting dry, and it will also keep it from sticking.
Next, layer lasagna noodles over the béchamel.  I used about 5.
Over the noodles goes the sausage.  Remember the sausage?
Then, pumpkin béchamel.  About 1 to 1 1/2 cups.  Enough to cover the sausage.

Then, some mozzarella.  About 1 cup.

Over the cheese goes another layer of noodles.
The ricotta mixture goes on next.  If you don’t use all of it…if you really feel like you have too much…save it.  I will tell you what to do with it later.
More noodles now.  This is our last layer or noodles.
Hang in there kids,….we are almost done!  Over the last layer of noodles, I poured on the rest of the béchamel (if you had extra ricotta, save some béchamel).  I sprinkled on a smidge more mozzarella and tons of parmesan cheese.  I also dotted the top with butter to help it brown.  I know, I know…..super unnecessary.  I just wanted to fit in with Paula Deen and the Pioneer Woman because I heart them.
I covered this in foil and baked it at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes.  Then, I took the foil off, bumped up the heat to 400 degrees, and baked it an additional 20 minutes.
This bad boy was super heavy when I put it in the oven.  I think that was how I knew it was going to be good.  So do a few reps and work the biceps.
Are you kidding me?  How good does that look?
Holy tomatoes….this was amazing.  Yes, I still love me some red sauce lasagna, but this has taken the lead in my book.  My food book.  It is creamy, cheesy, pumpkiny, all that you could ask for.  You have to make this.  Especially if you are having people over, they will die.  Not literally, that would be bad….but figuratively. 
BTW-this freezes like a champ.  Just wrap it up tight and freeze it, pre-bake.  When you are ready for it…take it out of the freezer in the morning as it will take a loooong time to defrost.  Once it is defrost, bake as instructed.  You could even make it in 2 smaller dishes….eat some now, freeze some for later.
If you have leftover noodles, ricotta, and béchamel…..spread noodles with ricotta mixture and roll up.  Place in a baking dish and cover with remaining béchamel.  Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.
I know I have thrown a lot of pumpkin at you lately.  I think I will keep doing that for the next few weeks on Tuesdays…….
Pumpkin Lasagna
16 ounce box lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound sage flavored pork sausage, (Jimmy Dean)
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 tablespoon sage, chopped
4 cups mozzarella, shredded and divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon pepper, divided
2 cups canned pumpkin, divided
5 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons flour
4 cups whole milk
2 cups Gruyere cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot, cook lasagna noodles in boiling water and 1 tablespoon oil according to package directions.  Drain and lay noodles out on greased baking sheet to cool.
In a large skillet, brown sausage over medium high heat until cooked through.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, eggs, sage, 1 cup pumpkin, 2 cups mozzarella, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.  Set aside.
For Béchamel:
In a medium sized pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat.  Whisk in flour.  Cook for about a minute.  Slowly whisk in milk.  Mixture will start to thicken as it boils.  Stir often to prevent scorching.
Once mixture is thickened, stir in remaining pumpkin and all of the Gruyere cheese.  Stir well.  Keep warm over low heat.
In the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish, spread about 1 cup of béchamel.  Place cooked lasagna noodles on top of that, just one layer.
Top first noodle layer with cooked sausage, then another cup of béchamel and 1 cup mozzarella cheese.  Top that with another layer of cooked noodles.
Spread ricotta cheese mixture on top of second noodle layer.  Top that with one more noodle layer.
Top third noodle layer with remaining béchamel, then remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Dot the top of the lasagna with little cubes of the remaining butter.
Cover lasagna with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake lasagna an additional 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Let lasagna cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.


  1. Your lasagna sounds absolutely divine! What a terrific combination of flavors for fall.

    Your entry caught my eye over at the CSI Project! Wishing you the best of luck, and a happy fall!

    Jenn/Rook No. 17

  2. I found you through CSI! Although I'm a huge fan of sweets, it was definitely the savory recipes that caught my eye in a sea of desserts! Your lasagna sounds great, a creative take on "fall food"!