Last week we celebrated Halloween, and what a fun night for kids and adults alike! While the kids of course are mostly focused on all the candy and treats they are going to haul in, it’s nice if the adults can look forward to being treated to some nice comfort food as a consolation prize after following the little munchkins around the neighborhood in the cold and the rain. If the little people have any appetite left for real food after stuffing themselves with candy, I find that traditional lasagna is a great option, as you can make it in advance and just heat it up, giving you time to go join in the fun instead of being stuck in the kitchen. But it’s also nice to have an alternative option for the adults, and this lamb lasagna is an easy and very tasty option with little Halloween surprises such as a sage marinated layer of pumpkin, a sour cream ‘bechamel’ and a green drizzle of parsley and almond pesto on top. Just like the traditional lasagna you can prepare it all in advance and simply pop the lasagna in the oven for about 50 min. leaving you time to go trick or treating with the kids. Serve with a simple green salad drizzled with olive oil and this festive lasagna is ready to impress your adult guests, and maybe even the kids?
Lasagna with lamb, pumpkin and lots of sage (serves 4)
3-4 tbsp canola (rapeseed oil)
2 lbs (1 kg) minced lamb
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 cans (about 25 oz/800 ml) diced tomatoes. Preferably heirloom as they are richer in taste.
2-3 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Large handful (about 1.5 oz/40 g) fresh sage
Optional: 5 oz (150 ml) red wine
1 small (Hokkaido) pumpkin (alternatively you may use an acorn squash, a kabocha squash or the like)
15 oz (450 ml) sour cream, 18% fat
3 oz (100 ml) full cream
12 oz (350 g) shredded cheese – half cheddar, half gruyère
1/2 tsp nutmeg
About 8 oz (225 g) oven ready lasagna sheets
Large handful fresh parsley
2 tbsp almonds
1. Start by browning the minced lamb in a sauté pan (the larger the surface of the pan, the easier it will be to brown the meat properly). Keep stirring the meat at high heat until it begins to take on a slight brown color and all the juices evaporate. This may take up to 15 min. or more but be patient, it is important that the meat changes color to release the (umami) meat taste.
2. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and continue stirring till the onions are clear and the meat starts to caramelize.
3. Chop the rosemary and about 2/3 of the sage coarsely and add to the meat. Stir a couple of times to mix the herbs with the meat, and then pour in the red wine and stir for a minute until the alcohol has evaporated and the wine has reduced a little.
4. Now add the canned tomatoes and the tomato paste, stir, and add a good 2-3 pinches of salt and some black pepper. Then turn the heat low and let the sauce simmer without a lid for at least 40 min. or longer until the meat sauce has reduced. Remember to add salt or pepper to taste once the sauce is cooked.
5. While the sauce is simmering, prepare the pumpkin by first cutting it in half and removing the seeds and then cutting off the skin using a very sharp knife. Then cut the pumpkin into slices about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick.
6. Transfer the pumpkin slices to a bowl and drizzle with 3-4 tbsp olive oil and chop the rest of the sage and add. Also add a small pinch of salt and a little pepper and stir around for a bit. Set aside. Turn on the (conventional) oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (185 degrees celsius).
7. Mix the sour cream, cream and shredded cheese in a bowl and add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside till the meat sauce is ready.
8. Now assemble the lasagna in a square, oven proof dish, about 9 x 12 inches (23 x 30 cm). First make a thin layer of meat sauce using about half the sauce, then add a layer of pumpkin slices (half the portion), then a layer of lasagna sheets and finish with a layer of the ‘bechamel’ (about half or a little less of the whole portion). Repeat the order of layers, and make sure that the finishing layer of ‘bechamel’ covers the pasta well. If you like, you can add a little extra shredded cheese on top. Put in the oven and cook for about 40-50 min.
9. While the lasagna is in the oven, remove the stems of the parsley and put the leaves in an electric chopper with the almonds and about 3.5 oz (100 ml) olive oil, a small pinch of salt and a little freshly ground pepper. Chop and churn it into a coarse pesto, and when the lasagna is done and has rested out of the oven for 5 min. or so, drizzle the pesto over.