I may be a Fitness + Food Coach, but I love comfort food as much as the next person. In fact, cheese + carbs (together) might collectively be my favorite food group.
That said, indulging every day is not in the cards for me: not only does eating like crap make me feel like crap physically, but frankly, I know how much food affects my mood + performance. So, I often try to make "healthified" versions of of less-than-healthy dishes for the indulgence without the guilt (or stomachache).
Most often, that means using vegetables as a vehicle for a delicious sauce, adding a sprinkle of cheese (instead of a truck load) for taste, and being creative about how to recreate familiar flavors + textures. This is how I came up with my new winter comfort food favorite: Butternut Squash "Lasagna" with Sausage-Tomato-Cream Sauce.
Ever since I signed up for weekly deliveries from Misfits Market, my creativity in the kitchen has been challenged in the best way possible. If you don't know about Misfits Market, let me fill you in quickly : for just $19 per week + shipping, I get a 10lb box of fresh, local, seasonal, ORGANIC produce delivered straight to my door. Sounds too good to be true, right?
What makes Misfits Market unique (and so very wonderful) is their mission is to reduce food waste by "saving" imperfect produce from the trash and delivering it to you. By "imperfect," that might mean butternut squash that are just a bit too large, apples with a ding here or there, misshapen carrots, or perhaps just a surplus. Everything is totally fresh + edible; just not "pretty" enough for the grocery store shelf. The bottom line is that for one reason or the other, grocers won't buy this produce from farmers, so it often goes to waste. As someone who prioritizes organic produce, HATES to waste food, and has a busy schedule, I absolutely love Misfits Market. (If you're interested, let me know - I have a discount code to share for something off your first box!)
You don't get to select what you receive, so I'm always surprised - in a good way! - when the box shows up. (However, if you have an aversion or allergy, just let them know.) My weekly delivery dictates what I'll make throughout the week, and has inspired me to stretch myself more in the kitchen instead of making the same. old. things. While I often receive staples I would normally buy anyway (kale, onions, sweet potato, oranges, peppers, greens...), I've gotten to experiment with less common produce (like black radishes, purple potatoes, or rutabaga).
Not to mention that since the produce is both local + seasonal, it's super fresh + nutrient-dense, making it better tasting AND better for you. So it was no surprise when I received butternut squash several boxes in a row (hello, root vegetable season!); while I whipped up my usual mash + spiralized noodles, I wanted to try something different. And that's how this butternut squash lasagna was born.
Just a little sweet from the butternut squash + cream, plus a hint of spicy sausage + tomato, with a gooey cheese topping, this lasagna is even better than the carb-filled version. (Not that it's necessarily uber low carb. I categorize butternut squash as a "smart carb": nutrient-dense, fiber-filled, minimally processed - so less impact on blood sugar - and of course, delicious.)
I've only tested this recipe with the ingredients below, but I'm sure it would be just as good with chicken sausage, ground turkey (just add Italian seasonings), vegan sausage or vegan cheese if any of those are up your alley. If you experiment with it, let me know how it goes!
I also tried shooting a step-by-step tutorial; this pushed me out of my comfort zone even further as I've been meaning to up my video editing game. (And by "up"... I mean have any whatsoever.) It's not exactly movie studio quality, but I think I got the job done!
What was even cooler about shooting the recipe is that the whole thing - even with talking and taking time to adjust the camera - took a total of 13 minutes of hands-on time. While you'll have to wait at least 45 until the finish product comes out of the oven, I think that's a great example of how healthy cooking doesn't have to be so hard (or time-consuming)!
While all of the steps you need are in the written recipe below, I include some of my favorite cooking techniques/tips in the video.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH "LASAGNA" WITH
1 medium butternut squash, peeled + sliced into lasagna "noodles" (save bulb for roasting or soup)
1 medium white onion, sliced
1/2 - 3/4 lb bulk pork sausage (Italian, Garlic + Herb; can substitute chicken sausage; if using group turkey, add fresh garlic + Italian seasonings)
2 cups canned diced tomatoes (organic/BPA-free can if possible) or tomato sauce (I like Rao's)
1 cup+ Italian shredded cheese blend (I like Whole Food's version which has provolone, asiago, mozzarella); could also use sliced or shredded mozzarella + pecorino romano or parmesan (something sharp for flavor)
optional: several cups fresh baby spinach, baby kale, or other green to preference (don't use frozen as it will let off water, and butternut squash will as well)
1. Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees. (It really depends on your oven, and doesn't matter - you will just cook the dish longer or for less time.)
2. Peel butternut squash, slicing off ends and setting aside bulb. Using a very sharp knife, slice vertically as thinly as possible, creating lasagna "noodles."
3. Peel + slice onion.
4. Meanwhile, brown ground sausage in a large skillet, about 5-8 minutes. If a lot of fat renders, you may want to set sausage aside and discard excess fat. Otherwise, once browned and mostly cooked, add onions.
5. Cook onions until soft + translucent, another 3-minutes. Turn off head and add tomatoes or sauce and baby spinach if using.
5. Take a baking dish of your choice and arrange a layer of butternut squash noodles. Top with a layer of sauce. Repeat 2 or more times until sauce + squash are used; finish with a layer of squash.
6. Sprinkle with a layer of shredded cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Place in a 375-400 degree oven for at least 45 minutes. Check after 40 minutes; using a fork, see if you can easily pierce through squash.
7. Once cooked to your liking, turn on overhead broiler (if you have) to finish cheese. Serve immediately.
Note that due to squash + tomatoes, there may be some watery liquid in the dish after you cut; if you have leftovers and put in the refrigerator, those may solidify with excess rendered fat. You can scoop that out and discard.
I love serving this with another green vegetable like broccoli sauteed with garlic.