I've come across several recipes for open ravioli, free-form lasagna, and the like over the last few years. Since the main problem with lasagna is too much or too little of one filling ingredient, I thought a free-form lasagna might be the answer.
And as an added bonus, you can make as tall a stack as you want. I put 4 squares of lasagna noodles on one plate, three on the other.
I used the butternut squash that had been sitting around for a week or two, waiting its turn among the winter vegetables in my larder. Another layer held vegan cream cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast which made a better-than-ricotta cheezy mixture. About half way through the cooking process, I thought, a white sauce! That's what this open lasagne needs to pull it all together! Of course, I'll take any excuse to make bechamel.
Bechamel sauce is simple to make. In fact, that was the first recipe I ever learned by heart, when I was a wee lass cooking in my mom's kitchen. She only had one cookbook, and I remember coming upon the sauce recipe and thinking how classy that would look on some broccoli. I've been making it ever since, though lately, with soy milk instead of dairy milk.
No baking required for this lasagna, though I did stick the finished plate in a warm oven while I composed another plate.
You can read more about how to make it below.
Open Lasagna with Butternut Squash and Spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled* and cut into ½ inch cubes
2 shallots, chopped
dash of ground nutmeg
1 cup soy cream cheese
1 cup crumbled firm tofu (Chinese style)
¼ cup nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil, or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups soymilk, preferably at room temperature
salt, if necessary
1 teaspoon olive oil (or olive oil spray)
3 cups spinach leaves, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 lasagna sheets, cooked
Basil, for garnish
In a large fry pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add shallots and butternut. Saute over medium heat until the squash begin to be tender, about 20 minutes. It helps to cover the pan, and to add a bit of water. (From the pasta water, if you’re boiling the pasta at this time.)
Make the cheeze mixture: Combine soy cream cheese and crumbled tofu. Add emon juice and nutritional yeast, salt, oregano, and basil. Set aside.
Meanwhile, cook the lasagna sheets. When they’re done, drain them, rinse with cool water, and cut sheets in half. (This will depend on the size of your lasagna sheets. Mine are 5 x 8, and create squares when cut in half. Yours might be the longer, rectangular ones. This is fine too.)
Make the white sauce: Heat margarine in a saucepan. When it’s melted, stir in flour. Slowly pour in 2 cups soy milk, stirring constantly. When the sauce thickens after 4-5 minutes, add two dashes of nutmeg and remove from heat. Add a dash of salt only if necessary (depends on the soy milk used).
Last, cook the spinach: Heat another tablespoon of oil in a medium sized pan and add the garlic and spinach. Season with salt and pepper and cook just until wilted. Add the cheeze mixture to the spinach, and heat through.
Assemble the lasagna: Lay one square of lasagna on a plate. Spoon butternut squash on top. Lay a piece of lasagna on top of that, and layer the cheese/spinach mixture on top of that. Top with another piece of lasagna, and more cheese/spinach mixture. To that add butternut squash. Either top with another piece of lasagna or leave as is, and drizzle white sauce on top of that. Garnish with some snipped basil.
This makes four generous servings if you use three layers, or three servings if you use four layers.
*The easiest way I’ve discovered: to peel butternut squash Cut the squash in half widthwise, just at the point where it changes shape. Then peel each piece with a vegetable peeler.
Notes on ingredients: Nutritional yeast can be found at health food stores (in the US anyway) or online (here's a UK source). Try to find it—it really adds flavor and is often used in homemade cheese substitutes and sauces. Chinese style tofu is the kind found in the refrigerated section of your supermarket. (In the U.S., you'll find it in the produce section most often. Here, it's made by Cauldron and is found among the vegetarian readi-meals, although other brands can be found in health food stores or in East Asian grocers.