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Butternut Squash Lasagne with Goat Cheese, Sage, and Breadcrumbs
The combination of sweet-and-savory roasted squash, tangy goat cheese, and fresh herbs brings big flavor to this lasagne. If you can find them, fresh pasta sheets from an Italian or gourmet market will give this dish a wonderful, delicate texture. Or, better yet, make your own fresh pasta for lasagne; go to FineCooking.com for a recipe. Please don't use "no-boil" lasagne noodles for this dish because their dense texture will overwhelm the other ingredients. You can make the roasted squash mixture up to 1 day ahead. Serves 6 to 8
1 large butternut squash (about 3 lb.), halved lengthwise and seeded
2 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 sprigs fresh thyme plus 2 tsp. chopped leaves
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh sage plus 1 tsp. chopped leaves
1 1/8 oz. (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
11/4 cups crumbled fresh goat cheese (4 oz.)
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (2 oz.)
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup coarse dry breadcrumbs or panko
1 lb. fresh pasta sheets or dried lasagne noodles, cooked until al dente
Roast the squash and garlic:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
Put the squash cut side up on a large, heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Put 1 garlic clove and 1 sprig of thyme in each cavity. Drizzle each half with 1 tsp. of the oil and then season each with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Roast until the squash is browned in spots and very tender when pierced with a skewer, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
Discard the thyme sprigs. Peel the garlic and put in a large bowl. Scoop the squash flesh from the skins and add it to the garlic. Mash with a fork until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
Make a goat cheese and sage sauce Melt 4 Tbs. of the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage sprigs and cook until the butter is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the sage. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and golden, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in the goat cheese, 1/2 cup of the pecorino, the nutmeg, 1 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the sauce and mix the rest with the mashed squash.
Season the breadcrumbs:
Melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter in a small skillet over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, chopped sage, chopped thyme, a pinch of salt, and few grinds of pepper. Add the melted butter and mix well.
Assemble and bake the lasagne:
Spread 1/2 cup of the reserved cheese sauce over the bottom of a 9x13x3-inch baking dish. Cover the sauce with a slightly overlapping layer of cooked noodles, cutting them as needed to fill any gaps. Spread 1 cup of the squash mixture evenly over the noodles. Add another layer of noodles and repeat the layers as instructed above, to make a total of 4 squash layers and 5 pasta layers (if using cooked store-bought dried noodles, assemble with 3 layers of squash and 4 layers of pasta). Spread the remaining 1 cup cheese sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup pecorino.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.
Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.