By 11:30 last night the kitchen was back to pre-party condition, save for a packed refrigerator. Even with my friends taking home some of the leftovers I won’t have need to cook for a week. Did I mention I cooked my favorite bolognese ragú with 10 pounds of meat? For 10 people? My fear of not having enough food got the better of me again; I had to cook the sauce in two pots. The main course included slow-cooked short ribs, broiled salmon and a salad (the planned roast veggies never made it to the oven) but the highlight was to be the lasagne, another personal favorite. Having just learned to make fresh pasta, I thought it would be fun to serve my friends a meal made entirely from scratch. The pasta-making experience was even more enjoyable this time around and by Saturday afternoon I was ready to assemble the lasagne so all I would have to do is pop the pans in the oven when my guests arrived. However, a final search for tips on using fresh pasta in lasagne yielded results that had me reconsidering my menu at the eleventh hour.
I came across a cooking forum with members saying that fresh pasta in lasagne was only good right out of the oven. Several commenters said that leftover lasagne did not reheat well, that the pasta got soggy. Of course there were a few other members on the same thread that said this was simply not the case but the seed was planted in my head. I became fearful that layering the pasta sheets between the ragú and bechamel sauce a few hours ahead of time would compromise my main course.
So I waited. I let the pasta sheets dry on the counter for a couple of hours, flipping each of the 16 sheets whenever I walked by. After a couple of hours the edges of the sheets curled up, some of them looking like boats. They dried enough for me to feel that I might have prevented the sogginess problem but I couldn’t help wondering if my preventive measure also rendered my effort of preparing fresh pasta completely futile? One hour before my guests arrived–bechamel sauce done, the pasta cooked–I almost scrapped the lasagne idea and considered using dried spaghetti instead. Encouraged by my husband to proceed, I served the lasagne anyway and my friends not only had seconds but they also requested to take some home. And guess what? I reheated a serving this morning for a late breakfast–the pasta was as good as the night before. Would someone please explain to me why I worry so much about these things? Things always end up working out.
You might wonder what this has to do with today’s recipe. Nothing at all except that you won’t have any angst at all preparing this foolproof dish. This was my eve-of-the-party dinner. I wanted to clean out the refrigerator to make room for the party food. Leftover rice, beets, sage and shallots ended up in my roasted butternut squash. If had mushrooms and pancetta and/or pine nuts, they would have ended up in the mix, too. I used turmeric to season the rice but curry powder or other flavor combinations would work just as well. Have a ball mixing things up–it will be a stress-free experience, I promise.
- 1 butternut squash (small), split in half
- 1 cup leftover cooked rice (I had a combination of red and white here)
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2 golden beets, diced small
- 5-6 pieces fresh sage, chopped
- 2 dashes turmeric powder
- salt, to taste
- Zest of half lemon (optional)
- Splash of stock (optional)
- Olive oil for sautéing
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. Brush the inside of the butternut squash with olive oil. Set both halves on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes; the squash should be a little tender at this point.
- In a small pan, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the shallots, sage and beets and cook them for about 3 minutes. Add the turmeric (and lemon zest if using) and cook for another minute or two. Add a splash of stock if using. This was my of keeping the rice from drying out too much. Season with salt, turn off the heat and set aside.
- When the squash has been cooking for about 30 minutes, divide the stuffing mixture between the butternut squash halves. Return to the oven and bake until the squash is tender, another 25-30 minutes depending on the size of your squash.