Tag Archives: Pasta

Rustic Acorn Squash Lasagna with Browned Butter Sauce

This recipe is my second entry in the Foodista Best of the Food Blogs Cookbook contest. The other one is my Meyer Lemon Sorbet. As Donkey says in the movie Shrek, “Pick me!”, if you are so inclined. Thanks!


You may have already noticed that I love squash. It is the perfect comfort food and is synonymous with Fall and Winter. I am a huge fan of butternut squash lasagna, however, it is a very rich dish that is sometimes a bit too sweet. It also makes enough for 8 to 10 people and there are only 2 of us.

I decided to create a lasagna that I could make in small portions that would also be elegant to serve for a dinner party should I want to make it in larger amounts. This also would avoid the problem of leftovers that are not always so good with butternut squash lasagna.

This is a beautiful and yes, rich dish, however, the portion is a nice size. I made the dish using Barilla’s no boil lasagna noodles which makes a square portion approximately 3 1/2 x 4 inches. You could, of course, make your own pasta, however, these are easier and are delicious in the dish.

Since there are a number of steps involved, my suggestion would be to make the fillings ahead, soak the noodles and then make the béchamel. Once you have assembled the lasagna and your dish is baking, gather the ingredients to make the butter sauce. You can then top the lasagna with the butter sauce, freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano and serve it for a romantic dinner for 2 or a dinner party for 6. I have made the recipe so that it should be easy to cut the ingredients in half (to serve 2) or add extra servings, as needed.

By the way, this dish has the major thumbs up and the ultimate hubby stamp of approval. That is generally the highest compliment (because he is incredibly picky!), so I hope you will enjoy this as much as he does!

Rustic Acorn Squash Lasagna with Browned Butter Sauce

Serves 4

Acorn Squash Filling
2 whole small acorn squash
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds. Turn halves upside down in a baking dish. pour in about 1 inch of water. Bake until flesh is cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. Turn right side up and cool enough to handle. Scoop out cooked flesh, put in a bowl and mix with rest of ingredients. Set aside.

Ricotta Cheese Filling
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese (Calabro is my first choice. It is the best I have found.)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
1/4 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt (or to taste depending on your cheeses)

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside. Refrigerate if necessary.

Bechamel
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
5 Tbsp. flour
5 cups whole milk
1 fresh Bay leaf
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper

Melt butter over low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add flour and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes. Slowly add milk in a stream, whisking constantly. Add bay leaf and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, whisking frequently for about 5 minutes until thickened and reduced. Add salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. Remove from heat and place in a bowl large enough to dip lasagna sheets. Cover with plastic until ready to use.

Lasagna
8 Barilla no boil lasagna noodles

Place noodles in a Pyrex dish. Boil water and pour over noodles to cover. Be sure to separate them gently so they do not stick together. Let sit about 5 minutes until pliable. Remove and place on kitchen towel until ready to use. Cover.

Assembly
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a baking dish with butter that is large enough to hold assembled lasagna. Cut noodles in half. Dip noodle halves in béchamel (be sure to coat completely). Place in baking dish and top each with about 2 1/2 to 3 Tbsp. ricotta mixture. (Do not spread out completely as mixture will spread during baking.) Repeat with another noodle half, dipping in béchamel. Place on top of cheese and then spread with about 2 1/2 – 3 Tbsp. squash mixture. Dip another noodle half in béchamel, place on top of squash and top with another 2 1/2 – 3 Tbsp. ricotta. Finish lasagna with one more noodle half dipped in béchamel. You can use a bit more of the fillings, but it will weigh down the noodles. (There will be a little bit of the fillings leftover if you use 2 1/2 Tbsp per layer.)

Cover dish with aluminum foil (be sure dish is deep enough so the foil does not hit the top of the lasagna). Bake 20 minutes until heated through. Let this rest while you make the browned butter sauce. * A little of the cheese will spread out from the lasagna, but just scoop up the cheesy goodness along with the lasagna before serving!

Browned Butter Sauce
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
12 sage leaves, chopped
Additional Parmesan Reggiano for serving

Melt butter in a pan on low heat. Add sage and stir and cook until butter is almost brown. Pour over lasagna and serve with grated Parmesan Reggiano.


Buon Appetito!

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Filed under Acorn Squash, Bechamel, Cheese, Entrees, Italian, Lasagna, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetables

The Last Supper (well, not exactly…)

This will be my last “heavy food” post for awhile (I think so, anyway). I had to post it since dinner was really good. We called this meal my husband’s “last supper” because he is really going to be changing everything he eats for the new year and this certainly did not fit into that new lifestyle plan! We had this a few nights ago and are already craving something just like it again!

What better dish could a good Italian boy have for a “last supper” than Chicken Parm??? It was pretty awesome, if I say so myself! I have made this dish many times before (that would be why we are in the position we are in to change how we eat). However, I decided to also take a peek at a new Italian cookbook I received from My Aunt Fran and Uncle Joe (good Philly folks) to see how Chicken Parmigiana was prepared in it. Aunt Fran is friends with the author, Mary Falbo, who has put together a collection of her mother’s old world Italian recipes. The cookbook is Giovanna’s Legacy and the recipes look fabulous. I will be working on making them “healthy” in the New Year! Anyway, it seems that Giovanna and I are on the same page as far as cooking this dish.

So, I prepared the chicken as I normally would have, except I added the flour step prior to the breadcrumbs (Giovanna’s suggestion). I think it did add a little more crispiness to the chicken. Since I do not add much butter/olive oil to the pan (that’s part of my constant diet), I generally do not get a really crispy crust. That is okay because the chicken gets covered up with sauce anyway. I also normally put the chicken in the oven with the tomato sauce and bake it with both the mozzarella and parmesan reggiano cheeses. Giovanna suggested doing the parmesan first and then the mozzarella, so I did that. I needed to put the broiler on just for a few seconds to get the mozzarella cheese to melt and brown just a little bit to finish the dish.

Since I was writing blogs all day and doing other things around the house, I cheated and used another bottle of Del Grosso’s sauce. (It was 8:30 pm by the time we ate dinner!) This time we tried the tomato and basil (gosh, it is so good…why make sauce??). Even I said that I have not had Chicken Parmigiana this good in a restaurant! Yum, what a great last supper!

I served it with a side a spaghetti (of course) and a really nice salad with mixed lettuces, olives, mushrooms and avocados (that is what was in the fridge and cupboard). We always use a great olive oil (the one we had that night is direct from our trip to Tuscany) and a good, or great if you can afford it, balsamic vinegar.

Since this dinner would be for my hubby, here is his quote on our outstanding wine we had that evening. “Chicken Parmigiana requires a wine of substance. One might assume a Chianti Classico would be appropriate to serve with this dish, however, an Italian Super Tuscan (Sangiovese, Cabernet and Cab Franc) possesses the depth of flavor to complement Chicken Parmigiana. Therefore, I chose a bottle of Tignanello. It has a wonderful bouquet of leather (like a horse saddle), tobacco, dark fruits, black currant, and a slight sign of olives. The wine showed gorgeous dark fruits on the palate, plums, cherries and berries with a touch of vanilla to balance out fruitiness. We shared a bottle of the 1998 vintage. This wine has reached its peak and should be used within the next few years. If this is a last supper drink, we can only hope to have more last suppers.” This would be a direct quote from my hubby the wine expert!

Here is the recipe with some additions by Giovanna:

Chicken Parmigiana
Serves 2-3

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Flour (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
Salt
Pepper
Italian breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Unsalted butter (optional)
Marinara or Tomato Basil sauce (homemade or cheat)
Mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded
Parmigiana Reggiano (a really good one)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pound your chicken breasts until they are flattened into cutlets. Dip cutlets into flour that has been seasoned well with salt and pepper (you can skip this step if you like). Dip chicken into beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. Pour enough olive oil in the pan to have a coat the bottom of the skillet. (I use a mixture of half butter and half olive oil. Be careful not to burn the butter if you use both since it burns at a lower temperature). Cooking over medium heat, brown on one side of the chicken (about 5-6 minutes) and then turn and brown on the other side.

Spray a large casserole dish with Pam or lightly oil it. Put the chicken breasts in the dish and cover the breasts with the sauce (I just use enough to cover the chicken, otherwise, I think it gets too mushy). You can either grate some parmesan reggiano over the sauce and bake the chicken for about 20 minutes until it is done, adding the mozzarella about 5 minutes before the chicken is cooked (Giovanna’s suggestion). Or you can put mozzarella cheese and then the parmesan reggiano on top of the cutlets and bake 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Either way will work.

I have also been known to add sauteed mushrooms which makes for an even heartier dish. I would have thrown them in had there been some in the fridge.

To finish off this gluttonous supper, we just happened to have an extra creme brulee lying around, so we had a few bites of that along with a few bites from a slice of flourless chocolate cake from foodie neighbor friends (it was so good!). That would be the end of the big food for awhile and we enjoyed every bite and every sip of wine.

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Filed under Cheese, Chicken, Creme Brulee, Desserts, Italian, Pasta, Recipes

What’s in the Pantry for Dinner? Del Grosso pasta sauce!

I had really good intentions for cooking a wonderful chicken last night. I had almost everything I needed for dinner, but I ended up out in crazy holiday traffic running errands and got home too late to do the required marinating for the chicken. So, tired and hungry, I stood in the kitchen looking at the pantry, fridge and freezer wondering what the heck I was in the mood to cook….The answer is always pasta of some sort when it gets that bad. You can never go wrong with pasta.

I honestly would not even write about cooking a pasta dish with prepared sauce, but this one was really good! We purchased a jar of La Famiglia Del Grosso sauce a few months ago when it was on sale. We bought their Aunt Mary Ann’s Sunday Marinara (gotta love the name!). We thought we would give it a try on a night just like tonight. It looked better than the usual bottled stuff and it should be at $7.99 a jar (regular price). It appeared to be cream based, but I checked and it was not. Just the usual suspects with a notch up…Italian plum tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, olive oil, onions, sea salt, garlic, basil, black pepper and parsley. Sounds just like something you would make at home and it was! We usually combine a can of imported crushed tomatoes with sautéed garlic and onion in olive oil and add fresh basil, possibly some parsley, salt and pepper when we are throwing a marinara sauce together in a hurry.

I also happened to have some sweet Italian sausages in the freezer, so I thawed those. I started to saute a large onion and a green pepper in olive oil, threw in the sausage (that I sliced into larger pieces), browned the sausage and cooked the vegetables. How Italian is that? Sausage, onions and green peppers…I prepared some penne and wow! It was better than eating pasta at any Italian restaurant that we could think of that serves traditional Southern Italian cooking. And I should know. I am married to a good Italian boy and I am from Philly.

Of course, I went to the Del Grosso website today and found that this is truly a family business that is cooking up and marketing old family recipes. This all started with a small cafe in Altoona, Pa. where one of the original family that immigrated from Italy began cooking up old an old world recipe for spaghetti sauce. It evolved over the years to where they were selling sauce to patrons to take home. Now there are 8 sauces for 8 different family members (how about Uncle Joe’s Vodka Celebration?) as well as pizza sauces and salsa, etc. They even own an amusement park in Tipton, PA. Who knew sauce could be so profitable (other than Paul Newman)???? From what I read on the website, their sauces are quite the rage and they are participating in many culinary events. I guess it MUST be really good stuff. I missed all this until now since we do our own….

I did not take a picture of our dinner because it’s pasta! And I did not realize it would be so good with so little effort. I, of course, topped it with freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano. (Yo Adrian, you gotta do that!) We really were impressed. I will definitely buy this sauce again to have on hand in case there is another night like last night. There are many days when you just want to take it easy. This sauce is perfect for a night when you don’t want to do major cooking, but it tastes as though you did. Thanks Aunt Mary Ann!

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Filed under Italian, Pasta