Butternut squash, mushroom and chestnut lasagne

So, here’s a meat-free dish to help you keep any dietary New Year’s Resolutions you might have made. Personally, I never make any resolutions but it is nice to cut back on the meat a bit in January, after the annual Christmas blow-out is over. This dish has the added advantage of using up any leftover chestnuts you didn’t use in your Christmas stuffing or with your annual dish of Brussels sprouts. It also has another healthy tick in a box because it uses whole wheat lasagne.

Ingredients (for four people)

250g chestnut mushrooms
1 butternut squash
100g cooked chestnuts (or however many you have available)
1 ball of mozzarella cheese
500ml cheese sauce (see below)
parmesan cheese for grating
salt and pepper
a few springs of thyme (or 2 teaspoons of dried thyme)
olive oil
a box of whole wheat lasagne (or normal lasagne if you prefer)

White sauce ingredients

500ml milk
100g grated Cheddar or other hard cheese
3 tablespoons of plain flour
75g butter
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

First, peel your squash and cut into smallish chunks. Heat the oven to 180C and mix the squash with the thyme, some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until the squash is soft and looking caramelised around the edges.

While the squash is roasting make your cheese sauce. You can do the classic way by making a butter and flour roux and slowly whisking in the hot milk or you can do it the lazy way and put the cold milk into a saucepan with the flour and butter and whisking this as you bring it to a simmer. This works pretty well and I never get a lumpy sauce doing it this way. When it starts to thicken up, reduce the heat and keep on stirring with a wooden spoon until it is of the desired thickness. You don’t want it too thick because you need it to cook the lasagne. About as thick as double cream is fine. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheese a bit at a time so that you end up with a nice smooth sauce. Stir in the mustard and set aside with some clingfilm pressed down on the surface. This stops it forming a skin.

Cut the mushrooms into pieces and fry in a little butter and oil until they lose their rawness.

Cut the mozzarella into little cubes and chop the chestnuts into smallish pieces. Mix the squash, mushrooms and chestnuts together and season with a little salt (the cheese sauce will be a bit salty from the cheese) and a nice grating of black pepper.

To assemble the dish put a layer of cheese sauce into a square oven-proof dish. Top this with as many sheets of lasagne as will cover the sauce. Then later with some of squash, mushroom and chestnut mixture, some mozzarella and some cheese sauce. Cover with some more sheets of lasage and repeat the layering until you have used up all the mixture. Finish off with a layer of pasta, the rest of the cheese sauce and a generous layer of freshly-grated parmesan cheese. I reckon that you should get about three layers if your dish is around 20-24 cm square.

Reheat the oven to 180C and bake for around 30-40 minutes so that the top is golden and bubbling.

This is filling stuff, so all you need to complete it is a nice simple salad.

You could also make this with some wholewheat penne or other shape of pasta. In that case, par-cook the pasta, drain it and just mix everything together and top with the parmesan cheese before baking.

You can also use whatever leftover odds and ends of cheese you have in the fridge. I think that a blue cheese would work well as part of a mixture, but be careful that it doesn’t end up too salty.

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