Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin-Butternut Lasagna With Italian Sausage

Normally Halloween isn't really one of those holidays where I'm sitting there trying to think up something really awesome to cook. It's normally for eating pre-packaged sweets and other junk foods that are terrible for you. However, every so often I get presented with an idea I just can't resist trying. 

This time, said idea came from silly old Cafe World on Facebook of all places. (What can I say? I do like to game and really don't have the time or attention span to do it properly anymore.) Some of the little virtual foods they came up with for us to cook this year were actually really cute... and sounded tasty to boot. They included pumpkin lasagna, something that I'd never heard of in my life, but that sounded interesting enough to try cooking nevertheless. I hadn't made a lasagna in a while anyway, so we were about due.

This was actually pretty easy to make, as are a lot of filled or layered dishes. You know how I hate to measure and nitpick and how much I like to just throw things together willy-nilly to see what I come up with. Lasagna is one of those things where I do that, at least with the filling. If I have extra filling leftover, it's all good. I just save it for use with something else. I made a ton of it this time, because I really wound up making two lasagnas -- a normal one that included Italian sausage for Seth and me with another smaller vegan one for my mom. However, you can certainly play things by ear and make less... or more. Whatever you happen to need.

Ingredients

Pumpkin-Squash Filling
  • 1 can pureed pumpkin
  • 2 cups chopped butternut squash
  • 1 medium-sized white onion (chopped)
  • 1 medium-sized jalapeno pepper (chopped)
  • Several cloves of minced garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Olive oil
Sauce
  • One large jar spaghetti or tomato sauce
  • One can Campbell's yellow tomato soup
  • Plenty of chopped garlic
  • Freshly chopped cliantro
Other Ingredients
  • One package Italian sausages (or a package of vegan chicken strips for vegan version)
  • Shredded cheese of your choice (vegan cheese shreds were used for the vegan version)
  • One package lasagna noodles
  • More freshly chopped cilantro


Pictured are some of the ingredients that went into the pumpkin and squash mixture. We had a can of Seville pumpkin. We also happened to have a couple of cups of pre-cut butternut squash that needed to be used up, so I decided to include it along with a medium-sized white onion, as well as some chopped garlic and a jalapeno that didn't make it into the picture. It was all sauteed in a pan with a little olive oil until the butternut squash was tender. Then the mixture was set aside to cool  a bit while I prepared everything else.

The Italian sausages were chopped into 1/4-inch pieces or so and sauteed until fully cooked, as were the vegetarian chicken strips (in a separate pan). They were then set aside in bowls. An entire bunch of cilantro was cleaned, chopped and set aside. The lasagna noodles were boiled ahead of time, rinsed thoroughly to prevent sticking, and allowed to drain and cool. The sauce ingredients were added to a pan and allowed to simmer until nice and warm. Basically, I just prepared all the different components separately and laid them out nicely for myself so that they'd all be ready and close at hand when it was time to assemble the lasagna.

For layering, you should have the following things set aside in separate dishes:
  • Squash mixture
  • Meat (sausage or vegan strips)
  • Cheese (regular or vegan)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Sauce
  • Cooked lasagna noodles
Cover the bottom of a baking dish with a thin layer of sauce. Then layer some noodles followed by one layer each of each of the above. Repeat until your dish is good and full, making sure to cover the top layer of noodles with sauce and cheese respectively. It's pretty easy, really. Then bake at 400 degrees in a pre-heated oven until warmed through. I believe we baked ours for a little over an hour.

Since it was Halloween, we also made mummy dogs to go with our lasagna (another nod to Cafe World,  as those were also included as part of game play this year). For those of you who have never had those, they're basically hot dogs or sausages wrapped in strips of crescent roll dough (the kind you get from Pillsbury or some such brand) and then baked until heated through. 

Seth and I had Nathan's hot dogs for our mummy dogs. My mom had vegan Italian sausages. I personally dislike hot dogs or sausages that don't have any bite to them (as in the boiled monstrosities you wind up with at most cafeterias), so we pan-fried ours ahead of time before wrapping them with their "bandages" later and baking. You can use lots of things for the eyes. Most people use mustard. We used hummus for my mom's and little bits of cheese for ours.

This all came out really deliciously! The lasagna was plenty tasty, but not at all heavy or greasy like some versions made with too much ground beef or extra cheese can be. I would definitely make this again at some point and would be interested in experimenting with different sorts of root vegetables or squashes for sure. I was actually surprised at how tasty the mummy dogs were for something so easy, too. I imagine they'd be lots of fun to make and eat with children for sure.
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