"Convenience was created to make life easier. If you want to live in a cave and poop behind bushes, you're still welcome to do that."
Forest Taylor, my housemate, while I was preparing pumpkin and basil lasagne.
My agency oddly observes Columbus Day as a legitimate office closing holiday. So, burdened with a free Monday, I decided to leave the cities Sunday evening and visit my cousin Mary Jo in Amery, WI. We made plans to visit with my great uncle Ross, play music, thrift and drink wine. Before we could address what we would do for dinner that evening, I offered to bring a meal to avoid the um-what-do-you-eat-if-you-don't-eat-meat brainstorm.
Lasagne (or lasagna or the Lane cake of pasta) is my go-to dish. It's not hard to make, it's easy to transport and you can prepare it the day before. I was tired with my standard mushroom-onion-zucchini-red pepper combination, and pulled out the Homestyle Vegetarian cookbook I purchased after selling 14 beloved books at Half Price for $9 total this spring. Pumpkin and basil lasagne seemed perfect for the autumn season.
So on Saturday night, I began the preparation (I apologize for the poor evening lighting and the iPhone photos).
When I moved to Minneapolis, one of my first investments was a cutlery set of four knives from Ikea. That's still all I own. The recipe calls to cut up a pumpkin (with a sturdy knife) and I retreated, because I'm pretty sure I was suppose to abandoned these knives with the rest of the furniture I bought from Ikea in 2007 by 2008. With wanting to keep all ten of my fingers intact, I chose to go to Lunds over The Wedge Co-op because Lunds carries pre-cut everything for those with money and no time. This seemed to establish the theme for this meal: convenience at any cost. I ended up with pre-diced butternut squash.
What made me the most excited about this dish was that it included pine nuts. My mouth watered for Psycho Suzi's Sunny Buick pizza reading this recipe. And if you haven't had this pizza, I recommend you travel back to 2010 before that place became a cesspool of bleach-blonde suburban moms, on their way to girls' night, struggling to parallel park their Rav4 and enjoy it without the two hour wait. #tikidranx Yes, I am bitter.
After roasting the "pumpkin" and toasting the pine nuts, this dish is simple to construct. The squash is a layer all alone and the mixture of cheese, pine nuts and basil becomes the other. With the noodles, I decided to take my second short cut. Back in January, when we were making meals for Casey Quinn, my mother informed me of these oven ready lasagna noodles made by Creamette. In another lazy mistake, I decided to try these to save me washing one lousy pot and absolutely no time. And because I can't have a food blog post without an animated gif:
Notice anything missing? Yes, you will notice that there isn't any sauce in this lasagna. And if foresight was like hindsight, I would have purchased fresh noodles and cooked them according to package instructions like Homestyle Vegetarian instructed me to. Those oven ready noodles need moisture to soften. After baking the next day, they looked and tasted a lot like they were out of the package.
In the end, the flavors of the squash and cheese mixture were perfect, but Mary Jo, Ross and I did not reach for seconds due to the hard noodles that had to be cut with a knife. It was a cooking bust. I did not impress as I usually do due to convenience, but I look forward to making this dish again, painstakingly correct.
Makes: 4 servings | Prep Time: 20 min | Total Time: 1 hour 25 min
1 lb 7 oz pumpkin (winter squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb 2 oz ricotta cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 large handful basil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-1/4 oz parmesan cheese, grated
4-1/2 oz fresh lasagne sheets
6-1/2 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking tray. Cut the pumpkin into thin slices and arrange in a single layer on the tray. Brush with oil and cook for 1 hour, or until softened, turning the slices halfway through cooking.
- Place the ricotta, pine nuts, basil, garlic and parmesan in a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
- Brush a square 8 inch ovenproof dish with oil. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Arrange one-third of the pasta sheets over the base of the dish and spread with the ricotta mixture. Top with half of the remaining lasagne sheets.
- Arrange the pumpkin evenly over the pasta with as few gaps as possible. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and top with final layer of pasta sheets. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is golden. Leave for 10 minutes, then cut into squares.