Do you know what the most popular recipe on allrecipes.com is?
You know about allrecipes.com, right? The largest English-language food site in the world, it's home to over 55 million "pieces of food-focused content" (a.k.a. recipes, if we were using English rather than marketing-speak). An average of more than 30 million visitors post, read, and chat about those recipes each month.
And of those 55 million pieces of content, one recipe stands above all the rest. Posted in 2001, in the past 5 years alone it's enjoyed over 12 million visits. It has nearly 8,500 (mostly 5-star) reviews; it's been pinned to Pinterest over 51,000 times.
Are you getting the picture? This recipe is POPULAR.
Maybe it has something to do with its name: World's Best Lasagna.
I mean, who doesn't love lasagna? And "world's best," well... that's quite an accolade.
Anyway, this dish has been featured on "Good Morning, America," as well as in the Washington Post – which terms it "an artery-clogging tower of sweet Italian sausage, ground beef and ricotta cheese."
And therein lies the rub: yeah, we all love lasagna, but sometimes its ingredients are just plain over the top. With nearly 2 pounds of meat and up to 3 1/2 pounds of cheese (in a recipe that fits a 9" x 13" baking dish), "World's Best Lasagna" seems a bit on the rich and heavy side.
Sure, I'd enjoy it; who wouldn't? But I might not feel so good about myself afterwards.
Which brings us to this lighter (MUCH lighter) lasagna, one featuring autumn vegetables and handmade spinach noodles. With zero meat and under 1 1/2 pounds of (mostly low-fat) cheese, the flavors of roasted butternut squash, caramelized onion, and sautéed mushrooms shine through. A sprinkle of sharp Parmesan plus a layer of comfortingly mild ricotta help bring it all together.
We can't claim this recipe is vegan; but feel free to serve it to your vegetarian friends – as well as those who appreciate a lighter touch in their lasagna. We've dropped a lot of the fat, but kept the flavor – and while Butternut Squash Harvest Lasagna will never reach the online heights of "World's Best," we're happy with it – quite happy indeed.
Let's start by making some homemade pasta.
Spinach pasta pairs wonderfully with its fellow vegetables in the filling.
Combine a firmly packed 1/2 cup cooked, chopped spinach and 2 large eggs in a blender or food processor; process until the spinach is finely chopped.
No, I didn't process using the dough blade! I switched to that to mix in the flour.
In a bowl or mixer (or continue in the processor), add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water, enough to bring the dough together, with no dry bits of flour remaining.
Knead the dough, by hand or in a mixer, for several minutes, until smooth. If you use a processor for this step, process for 60 seconds with the dough blade.
Wrap the pasta in a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper, and set it aside for at least 1 hour, for the gluten to relax.
Don't want to make your own noodles? Use the cooked lasagna noodles of your choice. You may not be able to fit as many layers into your pan, since store-bought noodles may be thicker than homemade noodles. If that's the case, simply use three layers of noodles, instead of four.
While the pasta is resting, prepare your vegetables.
To prepare the mushrooms and onions: Sauté 1 large sweet onion, peeled and sliced, in 1 tablespoon oil for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the onions from the pan.
In the same pan, sauté 1 pound sliced mushrooms in 1 tablespoon oil until they've released their liquid, and are browned. Season them with a pinch of salt, if desired. Remove them from the pan, and stir them together with the caramelized onions.
To prepare the squash: Place 2/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large frying pan (the same pan you've used for the onions and mushrooms, if it's big enough). Add 6 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) peeled butternut squash, cut in 3/4" cubes. The squash should cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer.
Cover the pan, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the squash is starting to soften. Remove the cover, increase the heat, and cook, tossing occasionally, until the water evaporates and the squash browns, about 15 minutes. Remove it from the pan, and set it aside.
OK, back to the pasta.
Divide the dough into six pieces.
Shape each piece into a short log.
Working with one piece at a time, use a pasta machine to roll the logs into long, thin sheets, as thin as possible (setting 9 on most pasta machines).
Cut the sheets in half; each half should be about 13" long. You'll end up with 12 noodles, with some leftover trimmings. Feel free to cut these into fettucine; I'll show you what to do with them later.
Cover the noodles with plastic wrap while you make the cheese filling.
To prepare the cheese filling: Melt 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter in a large saucepan. Stir in 1/3 cup (1 3/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Whisk in 3 cups whole milk, stirring constantly, until all the milk is added and no lumps remain. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens.
Remove the sauce from the heat, and stir in 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. (For a less assertively cheese-y lasagna, omit this step.)
Ah, at last! We're ready to assemble the final dish.
Pour about 1 cup of the white sauce into the bottom of a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan, or similarly sized casserole dish. Place three noodles on top.
Arrange the squash on top. Top the squash with three more noodles.
Mix 1 pound ricotta cheese (whole milk or part skim) with 1 large egg and 1/4 teaspoon salt. For an assertively cheese-y dish, add 3/4 cup grated Parmesan. Spread the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Add three more noodles, and another cup of the sauce.
Spread the mushroom/onion mixture evenly over the sauce. Add the last three noodles, and top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup grated Parmesan.
Note: If you're a die-hard fan of lasagna with gooey/melting cheese, sprinkle each layer of white sauce with a couple of handfuls of mozzarella.
Cover the lasagna with foil, and bake it in a preheated 375°F oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top of the lasagna is nicely browned.
Remove the lasagna from the oven, and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.
This short rest will make it easier to cut.
Cut and serve your masterpiece to 8 to 12 happy veggie lasagna lovers.
Oh, remember those leftover noodles? Just thought I'd show you what I did with them: Red, White, and Green Pasta!
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