It’s only lasagna…

I can distinctly remember the moment in time that lasagna first meant something to me. It was exactly four days after my first child had been born. And another two days before I would get to really truly hold her for the first time. And ten days before we would finally get to bring her home.Our first child’s birth had complications. Complications that took her away from us immediately following her birth. Complications that although they have ceased to affect our daily life (thank goodness!) still bring me to tears with knots in my stomach when I mentally transport myself back to those first few days of her life, nearly six years ago. The fear. The uncertainty. The inability to see anything passed that moment, or anything bigger or beyond what that moment meant to us as we sat in its thickness.

Four days after her birth my husband drove me home from the hospital for a brief reprieve; to shower with actual water pressure, to eat a home cooked meal that wasn’t hospital food, to be reminded that the sky was in fact still there and the grass was still green and there was life still happening outside of those hospital walls. While I showered he heated up one of the meals from our freezer stash, that I had dutifully prepared out of anticipation of what was to come. We sat in silence while we ate. Lasagna and peas. And I took the first breath I had taken in four days time.

I was reminded of this particular day when I made this lasagna, and how tremendous something so very simple can do in the face of all life throws at us. It is only food. It is only lasagna. It won’t move mountains. But you will. And you deserve to eat something that makes you feel like you just might be strong enough to face whatever comes next.

This particular lasagna is a sweeter and lighter variety than the traditional meat, tomato and bechamel version, which makes it feel slightly like a Jewish noodle kugel in that sweet-meets-eggy-noodley way. It’s a nice break from the norm, especially if you’re trying to get in a few extra veggies, as is always my plight.

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Squash, Spinach & Ricotta Lasagna

  • 1 medium sized winter squash of your choice (2 if you are choosing a smaller variety like acorn, avoid spaghetti squash for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup/ approx 150g chopped frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 tub/250ml/8oz ricotta
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 pack no pre-cook dried lasagna sheets or fresh lasagna sheets
  • 1 tub/250ml/8oz crème fraîche
  • grated parmesean cheese to taste
  • sea salt flakes to taste

Peel, de-seed and chop your winter squash into small, bite-size pieces. Tip the pieces into a suitable sized lasagna pan, add your minced garlic, drizzle with olive oil and a good pinch or two of sea salt, and use your hands or a spoon to mix until evenly coated and spread out into a single layer. Roast in a preheated 180C/350F oven for 30-45 minutes or until very tender, taking care to turn every once in a while so as not to burn your garlic.

Whist your squash is roasting away, prepare your remaining ingredients. To make your spinach ricotta simply drain and then combine the thawed chopped spinach with your ricotta, zest from one lemon and a good pinch of sea salt in a medium sized bowl.  *When spinach cooks from fresh or thaws from frozen it releases a lot of water so take care to give it a good squeeze before using.

Remove squash from oven once cooked, cool for 5 minutes, then using a fork or potato masher, mash until you reach a relatively smooth puree-like consistency.

Next, remove 2/3 of the squash puree into a bowl, and spread out the remaining third using the back of a spoon or rubber scrapper to evenly coat the bottom of your lasagna pan. Layer as follows: squash, lasagna sheets, ricotta, squash, lasagna sheets, ricotta. You should have enough for three layers of squash, three layers of pasta, and two layers of ricotta. Top the last layer of pasta sheets with crème fraîche, taking care to spread it out evenly so it covers the pasta, and sprinkle as much or as little parmesean as you like (we always opt for more over less..). Bake for 30 minutes at 180C/350F and let cool ever so slightly before serving.

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