Easy Summer Squash Lasagna

I love lasagna. I mean, who doesn’t? Pasta smothered in cheesy goodness, with more cheese goodness on top and oh yeah, maybe some vegetables in between. When I’ve made lasagna in the past, it is usually an all afternoon process, in which I seem to dirty every pan and bowl in my house. Sometimes it’s fun to spend a lot of time putting a dish together, it’s never fun doing all the dishes afterwards.

The moral of this story is to always trust your first instinct! I was going to make this exact dish last week, but decided to use the same components, save for having the white beans whole rather than puréed, but went against my better Lasagna, summer squashinstinct and made it with linguine instead. While the flavors were good, it was so liquid-y I knew it would be better in lasagna form. And not to toot my own horn, but this turned our really well (toot toot!). When I was telling people I put the vegetables and noodles in the pan raw, allowing the liquid from the vegetables to cook the noodles, I was told that apparently this is already a thing. I thought I was pretty smart, because it worked perfectly. And skipping the vegetable and noodle prep means this took 30 minutes from first chop to oven!

I realize it’s not exactly lasagna weather, but who doesn’t love summer squash?!

Ricotta mixture:

  • 15 oz. part skim Ricotta cheese
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil

Vegetables:

  • 2 large (or 3 small) yellow crookneck squash
  • 5 small (or 3 large) zucchini
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped oregano

White Bean Mixture:

  • 2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon

12 lasagna noodles, uncooked

1/2 cup grated mozarella cheese

Use the slicer attachment of a food processor to make 1/4” slices of both types of squash. Add squash to a large bowl with chopped oregano and mix well.

Purée the white beans, lemon juice and zest and salt in the food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil until you have a hummus-like consistency. Set aside.

Add the ricotta, mozzarella, eggs and fresh basil to a small bowl and use a fork to combine. Set aside.

Spread about 1 cup of white bean mixture in the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking dish. Cover with 4 lasagna noodles, 3 lengthwise in the pan, and 1 perpendicular to those three. Top with about 1/3 of your ricotta mixture, then about 1/4 of the vegetables. Don’t worry about the vegetables overlapping, just make sure the layer is roughly even. Cover the vegetables with 1/3 of the remaining white bean mixture, and top with another 4 lasagna noodles. Repeat the layering of ricotta, vegetables and white bean mixture until you have used all the lasagna noodles. Cover the last layer of lasagna noodles with the remaining 1/4 of the sliced vegetables. Cover the top layer of vegetables with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese.

Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the noodles pierce easily with a fork. Remove the foil, and allow the cheese to slightly brown, about 10 minutes.

Spring Vegetable Pasta

Happy Spring! Time for open windows, baseball on the television (Go Giants!), flowers blooming and brighter evenings.

This recipe came about because I couldn’t think of anything to make. I was driving to my hair appointment today, drowning myself in a vicious cycle of what-if-people-dont-like-my-posts, when it hit me, I need to like what I post if anyone else is going to like it. And I need to stop being so hard on myself. We women as a whole tend to over-analyze and torture ourselves, I think we all need to knock it off.

If you know me and read this, you’ll know I’m slightly A-type (I am an ICU nurse after all so it’s not my fault.) I strive for the illusion of “perfect”. My husband said something brilliant the other day while I was trying to pan fry some white fish and, as the white fish was dissolving in to half-cooked blobs and I was ready to throw myself on the ground/throw the fish against the wall, he said something along the lines of “You have to screw up to get to the good stuff.” And then I realized there is no “perfect”, you really do have to screw up to get to the good stuff. Pasta, pancetta, fava beans, asparagus

So in the name of spring when things start over again, I’m going to be a little less hard on myself. Ok, so maybe that will start tomorrow since I’ve spent the better part of the evening agonizing over this blog post, but I’m trying! How can you be hard on yourself while you’re writing about trying not to be hard on yourself? My brain hurts.

Spring means asparagus, and I honestly have no idea why I chose to cook fava beans. Probably because I’ve never cooked them before and thought I’d give it a whirl. The best part of this recipe was that it cost $20, and would have fed 4 if Miguel hadn’t exercised literally 4 times in one day and could eat the contents of our refrigerator (that’s for another post). Prep to table this took 45 minutes, so I think this qualifies as “weeknight” material.

  • 1 lb. fava beans*
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch asparagus (Snap the hard-to-chew end off and slice on the diagonal in to 1/2” pieces)
  • 1 spring onion, white and light green parts only, sliced and finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb with fronds (Set fronds aside and cut the bulb in half and finely slice.)
  • 10 oz. pappardelle pasta (I used Community Grains whole wheat pasta again because I am obsessed with it.)
  • Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 oz. pancetta (If you’re getting your pancetta from the deli counter, make sure to ask them to slice it paper thin.)

* A note about fava beans: You will find fava beans in their pods, they look like overgrown sweet peas. They are sweeter with a smoother texture than most other beans. I found the easiest way to remove the beans from the pod was to snap one end off with my fingers, then peel the pod back in a circular motion, picking the beans out as you go. But really, there is no right way to do it. One pound of fava bean pods yielded slightly less than 1 cup of beans.

Preheat the oven to 400˚. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lay out your pancetta slices in one layer. Bake until the edges are golden and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. (Note: I use a convection oven, so in a non-convention oven, this might take a few minutes longer.) Chop the crisped pancetta into bite-sized pieces. Transfer to your serving bowl.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the olive oil. When the butter and olive oil are warm, add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be careful not to have the pan too warm or your garlic will burn–fast. Add your spring onion and allow to cook until soft and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Then add the chopped fennel to the pan, along with the fresh thyme and lemon zest and juice. Sauté until the fennel has softened, about 10 minutes. Add the fennel mixture to the bowl with the pancetta.

Bring a pot of water to boil in a medium saucepan. When you reach a rolling boil, add the fava beans and asparagus pieces. Blanch for 3 minutes, or until crisp tender, but be careful not to overcook. Drain in to a strainer and rinse with cool water. Add to the bowl with your fennel mixture and pancetta.

Refill your saucepan, add about 1 tsp of kosher salt and about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook your pasta according to package directions. When there is about 1 minute left on your timer, use a ladle to remove about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and add to your serving bowl. When the pasta is done, drain, and add to your vegetable and pancetta mixture. Toss well and serve.

Happy Spring!

Pasta with Sausage, Brussels Sprouts & White Bean Purée

This recipe was actually inspired by my father-in-law. My father-in-law is an amazing cook, Whole wheat pasta with sausages, brussels sprouts and white bean puréeand fortunately for me, my husband, Miguel, grew up cooking with his dad. Basically, their family is the reason I have grown to love food and cooking the way that I do.

Before I met Miguel, I was a very limited in what I would eat. I used to say I didn’t like certain foods before I had even tried it. My family still likes to give me a hard time that there was a good decade where all I would eat was chicken. Miguel reminds me that for our first date back in the day, I chose an “Italian” restaurant where they served gummy bears on the table when you sat down. I know. So needless to say, not very authentic Italian food.

But he started cooking for me, and not wanting to not seem like a wuss for my new boyfriend, I would try those things. And gradually it was like there was a whole new world before me, as completely cheesy as it sounds. I remember the first meal he made for me was grilled salmon and basil pesto, but he made the pesto himself. I distinctly remember thinking, “You can make pesto?” Jeez. But here I am, making pesto and coming up with my own recipes–mostly without chicken!

My father-in-law often used to make a similar recipe, though the details are a little fuzzy. It IMG_0239had a white bean purée, fresh rosemary and some sausage, the rest I improvised. I wanted to spend little to no time cooking dinner (It took me four hours in the afternoon to make my mom’s birthday cake–HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!), so this is what I came up with.

This recipe served the 2 of us comfortably, but Miguel eats more than any human being I have ever known, so it would probably feed 3 normal eating people.

  • 1.5 lb brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 mild Italian sausages (I used Fra’Mani sausages because they are hormone free, blah blah blah)
  • 1/2 lb. whole wheat fusili pasta (I have discovered Community Grains whole wheat pasta, which is the best whole wheat pasta I have tasted. The texture is almost like fresh pasta! It’s not cheap, but worth it.)
  • 15 oz canned cannellini beans
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400˚. Put your halved brussels sprouts in a 13” x 9” baking dish, coat with about a tablespoon of olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper (Be careful not to add too much salt as sausages are already very salty.) Cut your Italian sausages into 1/2” pieces and add to the pan with the brussels sprouts. Put in the pre-heated oven and set to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the brussels spouts are golden brown.

While the brussels sprouts cook, fill a medium saucepan with water and set to boil. Cook whatever pasta you choose according to the directions on the package.

While the water boils, drain and rinse the cannellini beans, and put in a food processor along with the lemon zest and garlic. Turn on the food processor until a thick purée forms. With the motor running, drizzle in about 1/2 c. of extra virgin olive oil to thin out the mixture. Remove the fresh rosemary needles by pinching the thin end of the sprig, running your fingers towards the thicker end, pulling the needles down and off the sprig. Finely chop the rosemary. Set a large sauté pan over medium heat and add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the rosemary until fragrant, about a minute or two, before adding the white bean purée and turning the heat to down to low just to warm up the bean purée before adding it to your pasta.

Drain the pasta, and place in a large bowl. Top with the roasted brussels sprouts and sausage. Add about 1 c. of the white bean purée, or more if you like your pasta a little creamier. (Any leftovers could be good as a dip for pita chips!) Enjoy!