I always prefer red sauce on my pasta. I don’t think anything beats a slow-cooked, extra-thick, deep red tomato sauce. Except maybe this pumpkin béchamel. The rich sauce blankets this heavenly lasagna and gives each layer a festive, orange-creamsicle colored hue. I make it for my vegetarian sister each year for Thanksgiving, and sometimes I make an extra and freeze it for her to take home.
The subtly sweet, creamy béchamel compliments the salty bite of parmesan cheese and savory layers of dark greens. The turkey-eaters at the table equally enjoyed this meat-free main, much to the chagrin of my sister who had hoped for leftovers. It’s both crowd-pleasing and interesting, perfect for switching up a hackneyed holiday menu.
It can be assembled the day ahead and baked on Thanksgiving Day, just take it out in the morning so that it can come to room temperature.
What you need
For the lasagna
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
10 oz kale, de-stemmed and chopped
no-boil lasagna noodles
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan
For the béchamel
4 TB butter
4 TB all-purpose flour
4 cups milk, heated
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puré
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
What you do
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees
-Heat olive oil in skillet, sauté onion over low heat until lightly browned, 10 minutes. Add garlic, sauté 2 minutes more. Add kale, 1 tsp salt, and sauté until fully wilted, you don’t want to crunch into any raw kale pieces. Turn off heat.
-Melt butter in a medium saucepan. When butter melts, add flour and whisk until roux thickens. Add hot milk 1 cup at a time, whisking constantly. This helps prevent lumps in the sauce, but don’t worry if you see lumps forming, you can always whisk them out. Add pumpkin purée and whisk until a smooth, thick sauce forms. Season with nutmeg and salt, cook on low for 3-5 minutes, whisking often. Take a lick. Is it the consistency and flavor that you want? Cook more to make it thicker, add more salt or nutmeg if necessary.
-To assemble the lasagna: pour one cup of béchamel in a 9 X 13 lasagna dish. Assemble a layer of noodles on top, followed by the kale, a shower of parmesan, and another cup of béchamel. The listed amount of cheese in the recipe is a rough amount, use as much cheese as you’d like. Repeat (noodles, kale, parm, béchamel). For the last (third) layer of noodles, cover with the remaining béchamel and top with the rest of the parmesan and all of the mozzarella.
-Bake for 30 minutes, covered, then remove cover and bake 10-15 minutes more until cheese is golden and bubbling. Pick off the crusty bits of cheese on the edges… those perfect salty bites are for the chef.