It’s an oddity of human behavior that we are prone to repeating behavior that has short term benefits but negative long term consequences, like dieting. Restrictive eating rarely leads to permanent weight reduction—in fact, recent studies have shown that people who follow low calorie diets for long periods often end up obese later in life—but despite the evidence, I still get sucked into the cycle of restriction and indulgence. I find it easier to skip meals than to resist dessert. I’m working on it, though, trying to find a balance that I can maintain. One of the ways I’m doing this is by eating what I want. I know this sounds strange, but I’ve found that I often end up overeating when I’m trying to avoid a craving, so lately I’ve been listening to them instead, which is how, less than a week after Thanksgiving, I ended up inventing a new lasagna recipe.
This lasagna is one of the best spontaneous creations I’ve ever come up with. It’s creamy, smokey, peppery, and earthy. Substituting a traditional béchamel with a mixture of ricotta, cottage cheese (my midwestern roots are showing, I know) and pureed pumpkin provides an ethereal sauce that balances the richness of sausage and mushrooms and doesn’t overwhelm the grassy freshness of spinach thyme, and sage.It also keeps the calorie level a bit lower.
Sausage, Mushroom and Sage Lasagna
1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed, broken into small chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 lb. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 lb. ricotta
1 lb. cottage cheese
1 can pumpkin puree
1 cup Pecorino Romano
1 cup Mozzarella
2 cups smoked Gouda
18 oz. oven-ready gluten free lasagna noodles (I used Mueller’s)
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
Heat oven to 400º.
Brown the sausage on all sides in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then remove sausage from pan, leaving fat behind. Add garlic and mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are tender and moisture has evaporated. Add spinach, thyme and sage and cook one additional minute, until spinach is just wilted. Salt lightly and pour into a fine mesh strainer and allow to drain while preparing other ingredients.
Mix the pumpkin puree, ricotta and cottage cheese in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. If a smoother texture is desired, blend some, or all, of the mixture with an immersion blender or food processor.
Mix the Mozzarella, Gouda, and Pecorino in a bowl, tossing to combine.
Butter a 13 x 9 baking dish and spread a small amount of pumpkin mixture in the bottom. Top with a layer off noodles, spread with 1/3 of pumpkin mix, add 1/2 of sausage mixture, and sprinkle with 1/3 of cheese. Repeat these layers once more, using the same amounts, then top with pasta, remaining pumpkin, and one last sprinkle of cheese. Dust top with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg in desired.
Bake 20 minutes covered with foil, then remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes.