Lasagna done two ways

I'm a huge fan of lasagna and recently discovered how awesome no boil lasagna noodles are.  Not only does it ease the cooking process, but it also makes the lasagna taste better too.  No boil noodles are thinner, and since they cooked with the sauce, the noodles absorb so much more flavor and hold together beautifully.  This week, I made two different types of lasagna, neither of them traditional and both absolutely delicious.

Butternut squash lasagna
Summer has quickly faded and the air is starting to feel a little bit crisper and cooler.  Ah, what a perfect time to make something super savory and fatty.  Last autumn I made a really good butternut squash lasagna and the flavor stuck in my mind ever since.  But per usual, I've managed to deprive myself of it for an entire year.  Well here we go again, and this time around I switched up the recipe and swapped in the no boil noodles.  This is a winner and if you don't believe me, just look at this picture....

My lasagna recipes are for a baking dish approx 6x10in.  For me this is the perfect size as I rarely have more than 2 or 3 people eating.  So if you're feeding more people, or are just super hungry, go ahead and adjust the ingredients. 

-1 small butternut squash
-1/2 cup water 
-2 tbps olive oil 
-2 cups mozzarella cheee
-1/2 cup ricotta cheese
-1/2 cup parmesan cheese
-no boil lasagna noodles
-2 tbsp butter
-2 tbsp flour
-3 cups of milk
-pinch of cinnamon
-pinch of nutmeg 
-bunch of basil, maybe a cup or so

Start off by cutting, peeling, de-seeding, and cubing the butternut squash into small chunks, about an inch big.  In a saucepan that has a lid (yes it's important that you have a lid), heat the olive oil and add the squash, plus some salt and pepper.  Saute the squash for about 2-3 minutes over high heat.  Add the half cup of water, reduce heat to low, cover with lid, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.  This is when your entire house will start smelling like autumn... ah...

While the squash is cooking, work on the sauce, which is basically a bechamel sauce with basil.  Heat butter, add flour, stir for a minute, and slowly add the milk while whisking.  As this becomes thicker, add some salt and nutmeg.  Then pour about half of the sauce into a blender and add the basil.  When the basil is all incorporated, combine with the other half.  Make sure you taste the sauce too so you can adjust any seasoning, give yourself a pat on the back for being such a fancy cook.

When the squash is done, it should be super tender and mashable with a fork.  Transfer this into a mixing bowl, add the ricotta cheese and cinnamon, and mash all this together until it's smooth.  At this point, you will get the urge to start spoon feeding yourself the squash, but don't give in for the best is yet to come. 

Obviously you will want the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses shredded.  When this is done, combine both cheeses together to prepare for assembly.  I like including the parmesan because it's nice and salty, which pairs really well with the sweet squash.  Start assembly by pouring a generous amount of sauce on the bottom of the pan.  You may even want to oil the pan at the bottom.  Then I like to start the layers with noodles, squash, sauce, cheese, repeat.  

Cover with aluminum foil and bake this in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.  Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes or so.   Annnnnd, with a little love and care, you'll end up with this...

Mexican Lasagna
I don't know why it never occurred to me to make a mexican lasagna, it's so obviously easy and delicious.  Armed with the power of my newly discovered no boil noodles, I decided to take everything I love about mexican food and put it in casserole form.  I even made my own sauce with roasted tomatoes, onions and jalapenos.  I topped the lasagna with some shredded romaine lettuce and extra sauce, and some store bought El Yucateco green hot sauce (extra spicy!) 
I know you are drooling right now...

Again, this was made in a 6x10in baking dish.  

-3 chicken breasts and olive oil for pan frying
-cajun seasoning
-3 large tomatos
-2 jalapenos
-half a onion
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 cup ricotta cheese or re-fried beans
-2 cups colby jack cheese, or another mexican style cheese.  Cojita cheese would be great to mix in here. 
-1 lime
-1/2 cup of milk

The first step is to make the sauce.  Cut the tomatoes, onions and jalepenos into large chunks, add generous amount of salt and pepper, coat with olive oil.  Roast the veggies in the oven at 375 degrees until tender, maybe half hour or so.  

While the veggies are roasting, coat the chicken in seasoning and pan fry on each side for about 2-3 minutes in olive oil.  When it's done, transfer to a cutting board and shred.  I've found that the best way to shred chicken is to hold the chicken in place with a fork, and use a butter knife to tear, slicing in a sort of diagonal direction.  It works really well.  Once you get the hang of this method, you're going to want to start making all sorts of shredded meats... how about a pulled bbq pork lasagna?  The possibilities are endles....  Anyways, because I was looking for a little more substance, I mixed the chicken into some leftover ricotta cheese and cracked in an egg white to hold together.  If I had re-fried beans, I would have used that instead.  

When the veggies are done, transfer to a food processor or blender, add the juice of a lime and pulse until it becomes a smooth sauce.  By the way, I've seen alot of people juice lemons and limes and throw out half of the juice...which is really a shame.  Before juicing, just roll the lime on a counter pressing firmly until it becomes really soft.  Doing this almost doubles the amount of juice you get out of it.  I added some milk to this sauce because I wanted to thin it out a bit and calm down the spiciness from the jalepenos.

And then you're ready for assembly!  Again, always start with a generous layer of sauce at the bottom, and follow up with noodles, chicken, sauce and cheese.  Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.  Remove the tin foil towards the end, add extra cheese on top and return to the oven.  If the noodles on top are getting a bit dried or cripsy, add some more sauce.  I like to reserve some of the sauce for this purpose as well as to have on the side when serving.  The shredded lettuce I put on top is optional, but I just love the crispiness of it!  

 As the weather gets colder, hearty dishes like this are exactly what I crave.  And one of the best parts is that lasagnas make for perfect leftovers.  Goodbye boring lunch sandwich!  Note: this is a great way to make all your co-workers super jealous of you :)


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