Last month I, unexpectedly, met my lasagna muse at a vegetarian restaurant in Amsterdam- Waaghals. It was a pumpkin lasagna with flavors that burst, textures that melted and colors that glistened. Maybe the stars were aligned or maybe my palate was finally ready for this comfort food to walk right into my life… All I know is when someone can turn a pumpkin spiced latte into your dinner you must follow your heart. Thus, I took on creating my own.
I’ve played around with various mixtures of ingredients to not only recreate but improve on the dish I ate at Waaghals; adding more Fall vegetables and ultimately texture. Here’s what I came up with:
First off, I ended up preferring the taste of yams to pumpkin. Pumpkin can work just as well but the yams seemed to have a sweeter flavor which contrasted the saltiness of the other ingredients.
It might be my French cuisine training but, in general, when I see a mashed root vegetable I can’t help but sneak in some nutmeg. And if you don’t have a cinnamon stick then just add a dash of ground.
This dish serves as the perfect vehicle to layer my favorite Fall veggies- chanterelles and spinach (sautéed kale works well also). I also love the green against the orange color. I chose to season with fresh thyme but also found sage to be delicious.
In layering the lasagna two things are important. #1 that there is a base of the yam, ricotta, milk mixture at the bottom. And #2 that no part of the noodle is left uncovered while layering. For example, if the spinach or mushroom layers and their juices do not moisten the noodle then add a little more sauce to fill in the holes as seen in the photo below.
- yams (about 1.5lb Yams) 2.5 Cups cooked and mashed
- whole milk (2% is works also)- 2.5 Cups
- ground nutmeg ¼ Tsp
- cinnamon stick 1
- ricotta cheese 1 Cup
- olive oil 2 tbsps
- garlic 1 clove sliced
- mushrooms- Chanterelles are ideal when they are in season
- fresh Spinach 5 Cups (thawed frozen spinach can work if that's all you have)
- thyme (fresh preferred)
- parmesan ½ Cup
- shredded mozerella 1 cup
- fresh mozzarella 250 grams or 9 ounces sliced
- no boil lasagna noodles (6 sheets needed)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Rinse and pierce yams with fork. Wrap them in plastic wrap and microwave until they are cooked through (5-7 minutes). Let them cool, remove the skin and mash. Measure out 2.5 Cups of mashed yams and add to a sauce pan.
- In sauce pan combine mashed yams, milk, cinnamon stick and nutmeg over medium heat. Once it begins to simmer reduce heat to low and stir in ricotta cheese. Cook this mixture for 10 minutes occasionally stirring. Remove from heat and season generously with salt and pepper.
- In a frying pan warm up olive oil to medium heat. Add cleaned mushrooms and sliced garlic. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté for 6-7 minutes until cooked through. Scoop mushrooms out and set aside on a plate but leave any juices to sauté the spinach.
- Rinse spinach and remove any large spines. Sauté spinach over medium heat in mushroom juice until soft, 5-6 minutes. Keep all the watery juice that accumulates.
- Layering: Use a large baking dish that will accommodate 3 lasagna noodles side by side (about 14"-16"). Spread one layer of yam mixture so that the bottom is no longer visible. Add three no-boil lasagna noodles in a row. Next add a layer using all the cooked spinach and the juices on top of the noodles. If there is any space on the noodle that is dry then add a little of the yam sauce. It is important to have every piece of the noodle moist with either spinach, juice or a little yam mixture. Layer another three noodles on top of the spinach layer. Add the layer of mushrooms (using all mushrooms). Again add any sauce to areas that are not covered with mushrooms or juices. Sprinkle a half cup of the shredded mozzarella and ¼ cup of parmesan. Add the final layer of noodles. Cover the noodles with sauce so that it is fully covered but not swimming in sauce. Sprinkle the rest of the shredded mozzarella, parmesan and layer with the fresh mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bake in the oven uncovered, placed in the middle of oven for 30 minutes. If the top browns too quickly then cover with foil.