by MacKenzie of Grilled Cheese Social
Until recently, I never understood the appeal of fall. The changing leaves, cold weather, and shortened days were completely foreign to me. As a Southern gal, born and raised on the sandy beaches of Florida, I was indifferent to seasons because, well, we didn’t really have any. A hoodie on a cold day was enough to suffice and a fireplace’s sole purpose was merely decoration. Things changed when I migrated north to a tiny apartment in the big city and experienced the extreme temperatures of the Northeast. I quickly learned that central AC was a luxury I couldn’t afford and that furnaces were loud, uncontrollable nightmares that just never seem to work right.
Because of my new surroundings, my relationship with my favorite room in my house changed. I sadly accepted the fact that during summer I would have to avoid my kitchen until nightfall and when the colder months hit, I discovered just how surprisingly comfortable my apartment became, when my oven spread its cozy warmth throughout my chilly abode. This revelation was something I became mildly obsessed with – not only did the heat make my life more enjoyable, but it also gave me a reason to cook all the time.
From bubbling vats of coq au vin to bountiful trays of gooey chocolate chip cookies, my oven and I became inseparable. This newfound kinship led me to experiment and develop a creamy and luscious white lasagna that includes my favorite fall vegetables, pumpkin and squash, and of course, Wisconsin Cheese – lots and lots of Wisconsin Cheese.
Because of this inclination, my pumpkin lasagna features a shallot cream sauce that is composed of my favorite cheeses from the Badger State – deep caramel notes in Wisconsin Black Pepper Gouda play with nutty and sharp undertones in Wisconsin Parmesan, which in turn contrast with the mild and silky properties of Wisconsin Ricotta. Crisp, salty pancetta lends textural variety while simultaneously balancing the underlying sweetness of the dense pumpkin puree and fibrous butternut squash. This dish, though rich and creamy, is surprisingly bright and is a delightful meal for chilly nights when you need a little warmth in your home and in your belly.
Gouda Pumpkin Lasagna with Pancetta & Cheese Cream Sauce
By MacKenzie of Grilled Cheese Social
24 oz Wisconsin Ricotta cheese
15 oz (1 can) pumpkin puree
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp raw sugar
2 cups pancetta, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cups butternut squash chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
7 tbsp butter
1 medium shallot, minced
2 bay leaves
4 tbsp flour
1 quart of heavy cream
5 1/2 oz grated Wisconsin Parmesan cheese
4 oz grated Wisconsin Gouda cheese (black pepper)
1 lb lasagna noodles, cooked according to directions
Salt & pepper
Ricotta Mixture: Combine Ricotta, pumpkin puree, nutmeg, cinnamon, raw sugar, and salt to taste.
Butternut Squash Mixture: over medium heat, cook pancetta until crispy and fat is rendered, about 10 minutes; remove from heat and set aside. Add onions and a pinch of salt into remaining grease and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add chopped butternut squash, 2 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp salt and stir; cover and cook until butternut squash is soft when pierced with fork; about 10-15 minutes. Add in cooked pancetta, removed from heat and set aside.
Cream Sauce: Over medium heat, melt 5 tbsp of butter and add shallots and bay leaves, stirring occasionally until soft; about 5 minutes. Whisk in flour; cook for two minutes. Slowly add heavy cream, whisking often, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until thickened and sauce coats the back of the spoon; about twelve minutes. Remove bay leaves. Gradually whisk in Parmesan (reserve 1 cup for later) and all of the Gouda (black pepper bellavitano) and stir until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Add 1/4 cup of cream sauce to a greased 9×13 baking dish. Cover with a layer of noodles. Spread on 1/3 of the Ricotta mixture and cover with another layer of noodles. Add half of the butternut squash mixture and cover with 1/4 of the cream sauce. Add another layer of noodles and top with 1/3 of the Ricotta mixture. Repeat layering one more time. Finish with a layer of noodles, remaining cream sauce, and sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan cheese. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove tinfoil and broil until the top is golden and crispy. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.