In some communities, lasagna is a very traditional Thanksgiving food that serves as a main course next to other star dishes like the turkey (or turkey substitute) or maybe even a glazed ham. For me, lasagna is not something that has ever entered my family’s Thanksgiving conversation. I do like lasagna, but I don’t associate it with Thanksgiving or with fall flavors. The foods I look forward to are cranberry sauce, stuffing and most importantly ANYTHING with sweet potatoes or winter squash, that’s my jam.
When I was looking through cookbooks trying to decide what to make next, I stumbled across this recipe for “Yammy Lasagna” from “Just A Spoonful of Sugar”: 2nd Edition I got really excited. I absolutely love sweet potatoes so much and I often make recipes that include them. I also really like autumn/winter squash but they are typically expensive to buy out of season so my family only really ever buys them during the fall. We had a kabocha squash laying around and so I was able to put it to use in this recipe.
This recipe came from a cookbook that is fairly special to me. It is something my mom bought me as a souvenir when we went to visit the city to see this show a number of years ago. The cookbook was created by the cast of Mary Poppins. Cast and crew from the show came together and contributed their own recipes to create a cookbook, not as a regular souvenir but as part of an important fundraiser. Every year around this time in New York City, the theater community including Broadway, off Broadway and often even some touring shows, come together to help raise money for Broadway Cares also known as Equity Fights AIDS. All of the proceeds from the original sale of this book were donated to this cause. While Mary Poppins may no longer be on Broadway, there are still many shows running currently that are accepting donations to help fight for this important cause. If you are interested in donating or finding out more info you can do so here. I have flipped through this cookbook a number of times but never really made anything from it as it got buried in the back of the cookbook cabinet. Honestly I think this may be the tastiest recipe I have made thus far on this cookbook challenge. Scroll down to see how it went!
My apologies in advance for the shoddy photography. I was having so much fun making this that I totally forgot to double check that my picture were in focus while I was taking them. I owe you better pictures as I will definitely be making this again in the future!
Adapted from “Just A Spoonful of Sugar”: 2nd Edition by the cast of Mary Poppins on Broadway
- 3 large sweet potatoes or 1 approximately 3 lb winter squash
- freshly ground pepper
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups whole or 2% milk
- 1 bunch sage
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese
- 1 package lasagna noodles
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
- optional: half a cup squash seeds
The first step is to roast either your sweet potatoes or your winter squash. Like I mentioned previously, we had a kabocha that needed to be eaten so I opted to scoop out the seeds onto a roasting pan and separately place the squash with a little bit of oil and salt and pepper onto a baking pan to roast. The squash needs to roast in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit/ 175 degrees Celsius or about 45 minutes and then be removed to cool slightly. If you overcook it a bit, it should be fine as you are going to mash it later. For the seeds, pop them in at the same time and keep checking until they look golden brown and crispy. When they are done, pull them from the oven.
Photo Credit: Covered in Cookbooks
Check your lasagna noodles. If they are no boil noodles you are set! If they need to be boiled, start your pot of salted boiling water now and follow the instructions on the box so that they will be done and ready to use for assembly at about the same time your sauce and squash are ready.
The next step is to make the sauce. The recipe gives instructions to start right in with building the roux for your sauce. In retrospect, I would chop the sage and garlic and grate the cheese first so that once you get to whisking you can keep whisking without any worry. I on the other hand had my sauce boil over which I think could be avoided if done in this order as I was trying to multitask and chop and whisk and that was just impossible.
So first rough chop the sage into coarse pieces, no need for perfection and mince the garlic. If you bought a wedge of Parmesan, now is also a good time to grate the cheese. If you don’t like parm or have a lactose sensitivity you can substitute in a vegan cheese substitute or a different cheese that may be less taxing to your stomach. The recipe calls for 1 and 1/2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese but honestly I grated the whole wedge and it turned out just fine. Now that you have all of your add ins prepped you can begin to build the sauce.
Add the butter to a saucepan and let it melt. Once melted, add the flour and whisk to incorporate. Then slowly add the milk in, whisking as you go. As it starts to thicken, add in the sage, garlic, cheese and salt and pepper to taste. The recipe calls for white pepper as in a standard French sauce this is more traditional to not break with the sauce’s white color. However, since we are already breaking up the white color with flecks of sage, feel free to use black pepper or any other kind of ground peppercorns to season. Next set the sauce aside to continue to thicken off of the burner.
Photo Credit: Covered in Cookbooks
Take your somewhat cooled squash and take off the peel and any stems that may have remained. Then mash it until it is fairly smooth.
Depending on your baking dish, this next part may vary slightly. The original recipe calls for a 9X13 inch baking dish and states that you will need twelve lasagna noodles about 5X7 with only two layers. I swear my baking dish is also 9X13 but I made mine three layers and only used nine noodles. I would say don’t try and force extra noodles in each layer, go with what works best for the kind of pan you have at home and feel free to make it as many layers as you want given you have enough sauce and squash to do so.
Start by layering a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of your baking dish. Then add a layer of noodles and then the squash and the sauce. If you would like, you can sprinkle your squash seeds in between each layer when you add the squash mash. I opted just to put them on top as decoration and to save the rest for a different occasion. Continue doing this until you are out of ingredients. The last layer should be the remaining sauce with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven to bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit 175 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and then bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese on top is golden brown.
This came out honestly amazing. I am definitely going to make this again, maybe with sweet potatoes next time or a different squash. The flavors to me make it feel like it is butternut squash ravioli but in a lasagna. It was delicious and both mine and my mom’s favorite recipe thus far. I encourage you to make this yourself.
What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods? Does your family make a lasagna for the holidays? Let me know in the comments!
Unfortunately, as this book was compiled for charity and Mary Poppins is no longer on Broadway, this cookbook is no longer for sale. There may be some second hand copies around. If you do look for it, I would please ask that you also consider looking into Broadway Cares. They are a great organization working to help fight stigma and provide help for those dealing with AIDS. The link to donate can be found here.