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Move over cool, crunchy salads. Fall is here. It’s time for comforting, nourishing meals that have more heft. Healthy and satisfying autumn meals feel more substantial and make good use of the stars of the harvest season – winter squash.

Packed with vitamins and minerals, just one cup of baked winter squash delivers 214 percent of your recommended daily vitamin A intake. It also supplies a third of the recommended vitamin C and a quarter of your fiber needs. Winter squash is a very good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese, as well as vitamins B1, B3, B6 and folate, which help regulate your blood sugar and help prevent type 2 diabetes.    

There are also anti-inflammatory benefits. Winter squash contains omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA,) making it a terrific source of omega-3s in a low-fat food. The anti-inflammatory benefits combined with the antioxidant benefits make winter squash a possible tool for preventing or fighting cancer, as well as the prevention of cardiovascular disease. 

When you add delicious, nutty taste to all of these health benefits, you can see why I call winter squash the star of the harvest season. One of my favorites is butternut, easily found in supermarkets everywhere. Why not tuck some creamy roasted squash between layers of lasagna?     

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna 

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups (1/2 inch) cubed, peeled butternut squash (organic recommended) 
  • 7-8 oz. bulk lean Italian sausage (locally sourced, minimally processed preferred) 
  • 1 cup onion, chopped 
  • 1 jar organic pasta or marinara sauce (I use Muir Glen Organic Garden Vegetable Pasta Sauce) 
  • 9 lasagna noodles (I use Tinkyáda Brown Rice Pasta Lasagna) 
  • 1-1/2 cups part-skim Ricotta cheese 1/4 cup milk (plant-based milk or pasta water can be used) 
  • extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend 
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 425° F 

2. Place cubed butternut squash on a rimmed baking tray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Place tray in oven and roast squash for 25 minutes until tender and golden. 

3. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Undercook by 2 minutes to allow for baking time in the oven. Rinse under cold water. 

4. While squash is roasting and noodles are boiling, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil, chopped onion and Italian sausage. Cook the sausage with the onion until no pink remains, breaking up the meat into small pieces as it browns.   

5. Mix ricotta with 1/4 cup milk or reserved pasta water to make it easier to spread. 

6. Remove squash from the oven, and reduce heat to 350° F. 

7. In an ungreased (13” x 9” x 2”) baking dish, pour  1/3 of the jar of pasta sauce and spread to cover bottom of pan. Place 3 lasagna noodle sheets on top of the sauce. Add half of the roasted squash, half of the ricotta mixture (spread it around with a spatula,) and sprinkle half of the shredded cheese. Repeat with 1/3 pasta sauce, 3 lasagna noodles, remaining squash, ricotta and cheese. Place the last 3 noodles on top, then pour on the remaining pasta sauce. Top with ¼ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese.  

8. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, turn oven to broil, and brown the top of the lasagna for about 5 minutes until cheese is golden. Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before serving.