Tag Archives: homecook

Pancetta, Kale & Butternut Squash Lasagna 

There is not one person who will object to this recipe..the meat-eater gets their crispy and flavorful pancetta and the lighter plate’r gets the freshness of the kale and butternut squash…and what’s not to like about béchamel sauce??!  This is a lasagna that will fulfill everyone’s palate while still leaving you not carb-crashed on your couch.

Plus…yes, there is a plus!  You can absolutely make this a bit more simple with ‘ready to bake’ lasagna noodles, precut and washed kale leaves and already cubed butternut squash in your produce section..Remember though, that there are still produce scales that you can weigh the squash to what you need..cheaper!  

The Starting Lineup

  • 3 lbs butternut squash, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic, skin intact
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, plus leaves of 2 springs
  • 3 Tbsp evoo
  • 1/2 lb pancetta, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed and patted dry
  • 5 Tbsp butter, divided (4:1)
  • 3 fresh sage leaves, plus 1 leaf rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs 
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Lasagna noodles, ready to bake (2 packs depending)
  • Kosher salt & ground pepper

Optional

  • Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly chopped parsely, Italian flat leaf    

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prepare a large baking sheet with either nonstick or parchment paper.

Like I mentioned above, you can either peel and cube the butternut squash yourself or buy it already done in your produce aisle..I suppose it depends on how much of a ‘purest’ you are..delish either way.    We’ll just pretend you are and you’ve prepped the squash and also rinsed & patted dry the kale leaves *remove the leaves from the stalk. 

   Place the cubed squash in an even layer on top of the baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tbsp of evoo and mix around to coat.  Sprinkle the squash with a bit of salt and pepper and toss on about 3 springs of fresh thyme.  You also want to put the garlic cloves onto this sheet *Remember, leave the garlic skin on to roast.  Place the baking sheet onto the middle rack of your oven and let roast and become tender for 40-45 minutes…Talk about a smell good home!!  

While the squash and garlic are roasting, you’ll heat a splash of evoo in a saute pan and once hot, add in the pancetta.  Cook this (stirring around occasionaly) for about 4-5 minutes till it starts to crisp *just like American bacon.  Once brown and crisp, toss in that pile of kale leaves.  *Make sure they’re all DRY…you do NOT want to add in wet (water covered) greens into a pot of hot oil/grease.  Bad, bad things will happen…Once the leaves have wilted and soaked up a bit of that marvelous pancetta flavor, scoop that mix into a paper towl lined bowl and set aside.  Dispose of excess grease. 

     About now the roasted vegetables are done alongside the kale & pancetta.  Just set both aside to cool a bit.  Drop the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.

Lets start that tangy, gooey béchamel sauce!  In another pan (sauté or sauce pan), heat up 4 Tbsp of the butter on medium-low heat till melted (don’t burn this)…Immediately, once melted, toss in the 3 sage leaves and cook in the butter (while stirring) for 3-4 minutes.  Discard the sage and add in the flour.  Whisk till smooth (2-3 minutes). 

       Gradually whisk in the milk and cook until thickened enough to coat a spoon, while whisking occasionally (15 minutes). 

   Next, stir in the goat cheese, 1/2 cup pecorino cheese, nutmeg, salt & pepper.  Whisk till smooth and then set aside 2 cups of the cheesy béchamel, while reserving the rest for the squash mixture. 

   In a large bowl, combine the roasted squash (REMOVE the thyme sprigs), the leftover béchamel sauce and squeeze out the garlic from the roasted cloves, discarding the skins.   Sprinkle with another pinch of salt & pepper and mash together with a potato masher or fork (for more texture) or a handheld mixer for creamier results.  *I prefer the handheld way. 

     Breadcrumb Topping:  In a small bowl, add the Panko breadcrumbs with 1 Tbsp of melted butter and the chopped herbs (sage & thyme), a pinch of salt & pepper.

Assembly time!!  In a 9×13 dish sprayed with non stick, add a couple of Tbsps of béchamel sauce to the bottom and top with enough lasagna noodles to cover.  Break if needed to fill in gaps.  Next spread about 1 cup of the mashed butternut squash mixture over the noodles. 

 Follow with some of the pancetta & sauteed kale overtop.  A bit more bechamel…another layer of noodles and repeat until ingredients are gone…but please try to end up with the top layer of noodles and béchamel (I always get 3 layers with this amount). 

 Sprinkle the entire top of the lasagna with the Panko bread crumb mixture and the other 1/2 cup pecorino cheese.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Remove the foil, sprinkle with the pine nuts and now bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.  Once the top is browned and bubbly remove from the oven and allow to cool and set for 5-10 minutes before cutting into.  

Serve with an extra garnish of shaved parmesan cheese and freshly chopped parsley…enjoy! 

 



Restaurant Style ‘Refried’ Beans (Crockpot)

Having the taste of restaurant style beans (for pennies) in your own home versus that glop from the can is priceless.  Who knew it could be sooo easy AND make so much!  Given the large batch this recipe makes and its simplicity, it is great for a gathering, a large family or to freeze for another Mexican inspired meal!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1lb bag of dried pinto beans
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 1-2 Jalapenos, halved and seeded (decide YOUR heat level)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp cumin, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt & ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp chicken bouillon, to taste (Knorr)
  • 6 cups water  

THE NIGHT BEFORE, pour your dried pinto beans into a large bowl and fill with water.  Cover with saran wrap or a plate and allow to soak overnight while you sleep your sweet dreams. 

 Let us now fast forward to the next morning….Drain the beans in a collander and give a quick rinse before pouring them into your slow cooker (sprayed with non-stick). 

   Next add in every other single ingredient listed above.  Dang..this is pretty easy right?? 

   Cover the crockpot and set to low for the next 6-8+ hours.  Your house will soon start to take on that delicious mexican restaurant “I need chips & salsa” smell.  Delightful. 

   After time is up you have a few options to finish the beans.  

  • Leave them whole and enjoy.
  • Literally refry them.  Add them to a hot pan with a bit of lard and mash them till theyre your desired consisitancy.
  • Ladle the beans into a food processor with a bit of the cooking water and puree.  Pour back into the slowcooker to keep warm.
  • Ladle the beans into a blender with a bit of the cooking water and puree.  Pour back into the slowcooker to keep warm.  *Be careful with HOT liquids in a blender.  Make sure to cover lid with a small towel and your hand as the heat causes everything to expand.
  • Ladle a bit of the cooking liquid OUT of the slowcooker and use your immersion blender to puree the beans right in the dish.  *Add the liquid back in IF needed.  We like them ‘soupy’ but not overly so.  This is the route I chose today.    

Now that they’re all mashed to their refried bean gloriousness, season a bit more to taste if needed.  Serve topped with a bit of cheese & cilantro.  Delicious! 

 *This makes A LOT.  So if you have quite a bit leftover, transfer to a freezer bag, zip up, lay flat and place in freezer.  To eat: defrost over night and reheat in a pan or microwave with a pad or two of butter.

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