Autumn Lasagna

by Karin Calloway
Lasagna is a wonderful dinner party dish since it can be prepared ahead. And, this rich Autumn Lasagna is packed with flavor, texture and color. The filling is a combination of mushrooms, pancetta and chicken all bound in a creamy béchamel sauce. Layering the filling with no-boil lasagna sheets makes this particularly simple to prepare.

The surprise filling in the center is a yummy layer of winter squash puree and shredded mozzarella. The recipe calls for frozen, defrosted winter squash puree but you can make your own out of roasted butternut or acorn squash. Don’t let the length of the recipe be off-putting, as most of the components are cooked in the same pan. The lasagna can be assembled and frozen or refrigerated before baking, and leftovers reheat beautifully.

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced, divided
  • 16 ounces fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, divided
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles*
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 6 cups whole milk 
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen winter squash, defrosted and drained
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add pancetta and sauté for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sauté 3 minutes more, until mushrooms release their juices. Add half of the minced garlic and sauté 3 minutes more, until the juices have evaporated and the mushrooms are golden. Remove from skillet into a large bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining pancetta and sauté for 2 minutes. Add chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté until chicken is almost done. Add remaining garlic and sauté until chicken is cooked through. Remove from skillet into the bowl with the mushrooms and set aside.

Prepare a béchamel sauce by melting butter in the same skillet. Add flour and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with grated nutmeg and stir in 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

Spray a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and spread 1 cup of béchamel in the bottom of the dish. Set aside 2 cups of the béchamel and add the remaining sauce to the chicken and mushrooms. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Top béchamel with 3 sheets of lasagna and spread with half of the chicken-mushroom mixture. Top with 1 cup of shredded Parmesan. Top with 3 more noodles.

Season the drained squash puree with salt and pepper and spread over the noodles. Sprinkle with mozzarella and top with another layer of noodles, being careful they don’t overlap. Spread with remaining chicken-mushroom mixture and sprinkle with 1 cup of shredded Parmesan. Top with more of the noodles and spread with reserved béchamel. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes, until cheese is golden and lasagna is bubbly. Remove from oven and set aside for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings

*Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles were used for testing purposes.
Autumn Lasagna

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The fall colors signal changes outdoors, but the change can be seen indoors as well. Dinner party fare becomes heartier, with more of the cooking done inside instead of on the grill.