Monday, December 19, 2016

Comfort & Joy

Last night I made a new recipe that took me by surprise. Not only was it stunning on the plate, it featured an amazing complement of flavors. I offer it up here to remind me to try it again and to encourage you to tackle it on a day that you have some time to spend in the kitchen. It is not hard, but has lots of steps.

While it did take the better part of an afternoon, it was a joyful time in the kitchen. Outside was chilling, but a fire was crackling away in the fireplace; Ed and Jack were sort of keeping me company as they watched NFL football and I wasn't feeling compelled to do anything but putter around the kitchen and dirty up an assortment of pots and pans.

The recipe is called "Four Cheese Vertical Roll Lasagna + Butternut Squash, Sausage and Kale." I call it: "Comfort on a Plate." I found the recipe here. And you really should click on it just to see the beautiful photos. Of course, I wasn't planning to blog about the recipe, so I only took one photo, midway through the process.

The fun part was spreading the ricotta/mozzarella cheese mixture on cooked noodles, adding the colorful squash, kale and sausage and then rolling them up into ruffly-looking spirals. The recipe calls for making the cheese sauce in a Vitamix blender, but I don't have one. Instead, I just melted the cheeses into cream in a heavy pan on my stove top.

I need to warn you. This is an over-the-top rich dish. Perfect for a winter birthday celebration, holiday dinner, or other special occasion. I had planned to serve two or three of the spirals on each plate, but I actually think one (or maybe two) is plenty for all but the biggest eaters (i.e. Jack). A green salad with pomegranate arils and avocado helped balance the richness. We uncorked a bottle of pinot noir, completing our Sunday dinner.

Joy in the kitchen; comfort on the plate.

from: The Kitchen McCabe


Makes: 12 Lasagna Rolls (serves six)

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
¼ cup+ Water
1 small Butternut Squash, cut into small cubes
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
½ bunch Kale (I used Tuscan, but curly would be great too), cut into bite sized pieces
1 pound Italian Sausage, cooked and crumbled
16 ounces Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
16 ounces Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
12 Lasagna Noodles, cooked (I cook them 75% of the way so that they are still firm but can continue cooking the rest of the way once they are stuffed and baking in the sauce).

4 ounces Butter(salted)
¼ cup Fresh Sage Leaves (20 leaves or so)
1 cup Heavy Cream, room temperature
1 cup Half & Half, room temperature
4 ounces Fontina Cheese, shredded
1¼ cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
¼ teaspoon Ground Pepper
¼ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 teaspoon Sea Salt


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish (I used 2 round dishes, but a 9x13 should work).
2. Place the olive oil and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium/high heat. Add the cubed butternut squash to the pan and cover. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally and re-covering. Add more water, if it all evaporated before squash is tender. When Squash is tender, remove the lid and add the garlic and kale. Saute for minutes, or until kale is wilted.
3. Remove from heat and toss in the cooked sausage. Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. Place the shredded mozzarella and ricotta in a mixing bowl and mix together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Lay the cooked lasagna noodles out on a clean work surface. Divide the cheese mixture evenly between the noodles and press the filling evenly down each noodle.
6. Divide the sausage/squash mixture between the noodles and spread the filling out amongst each noodle.
7. Roll each noodle up into a pinwheel and place, spiral side up, in the prepared baking pan.
9. Place the butter in a saute pan and heat over medium/high heat. Butter will melt - once the butter begins to foam, add the sage leaves. Continue to cook the butter and sage, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter gives off a nutty aroma and turns golden brown. Remove from heat. Scoop the sage leaves and 2 tablespoons of the butter into a little bowl and set aside.
10. Pour the remaining butter into a Vitamix blender container.
11. Add the cream, half and half, fontina, 1 cup of parmesan(reserve the other ¼ cup), pepper, nutmeg and salt to the blender and fit the lid on top.
12. Place the blender on it's base and turn it on to variable 1. Slowly turn the dial up to variable 10 and let run for 5 minutes, or until steam escapes the vent. Turn off the blender and carefully remove the lid.
13. Pour the sauce over the top of the lasagna rolls.
14. Sprinkle the reserved parmesan over the top of the sauce.
15. Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.
16. Remove from the oven and drizzle the top of the pasta with the reserved sage leaves and brown butter.
17. Enjoy!


My notes: The next time I make this, I am going to add one egg to the mozzarella/ricotta mixture, making it a bit easier to spread. I'm also planning to use whole milk for the half-and-half portion, and am going to use only 2 oz of butter (rather than 4) for the sage/brown butter.

But I am definitely going to make it again. It's a keeper!

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