I was having a friend over for dinner after work and generally favour recipes that will easily feed a few people that I can either spoon out of a slow cooker or pull out of the oven. This recipe works because it takes about 20 minutes to assemble it, then you can just leave it for an hour or so while it cooks and you entertain.
This lasagne is obviously not a classic recipe. Instead of layers of meat ragu and bechamel, the pasta is instead layered with chicken, squash and pesto. You really have to be a fan of pesto to like this dish – it just so happens that I am, so that’s fine.
The sweetness of the squash is really nice with the pesto. I was hesitant about cooking the squash in the microwave, since I usually just use it to defrost things, but it turned out well. I especially like the pine nuts on top, which add some crunch that you don’t usually get in a lasagne.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 600ml chicken stock
- 500g tub mascarpone
- 190g jar pesto
- bunch basil, leaves picked and chopped, save a few small whole leaves to serve
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
- good grating of nutmeg
- 12 lasagne sheets ( I use gluten free lasagne)
- 85g Parmesan, grated
- splash of milk
- 50g pine nuts
- Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Add the onions and cook until softened, then add the garlic and cook for a few mins more. Push the onions and garlic to the edge of the pan, add the chicken breasts and cook for a few mins each side to brown. Sprinkle over the flour and stir it into the onion mixture. Tip in the stock and season. Cover and simmer for 10 mins – or until the chicken is cooked through. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken into bite-sized chunks. Add half the mascarpone and the pesto, stirring until the mascarpone has melted into the sauce, bubble for a few mins to thicken a little, then remove from the heat and stir in the basil.
- Meanwhile, place the squash in a large bowl with 2tbsp of water, cover with cling film and microwave on High for 12-15 mins, until really soft. Season the squash with a little of the nutmeg and some salt and pepper, and mash lightly with a fork.
- Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Spoon half the chicken mixture into the bottom of a 20 x 30cm ovenproof dish. Cover with 4 lasagne sheets, then the butternut squash and half the Parmesan. Top with another 4 lasagne sheets, the remaining chicken mixture, then a final layer of lasagne. Mix enough milk into the remaining mascarpone to make a smooth sauce – you need to aim for a consistency similar to white sauce. Season with remaining nutmeg, salt and pepper, then pour over the lasagne. Scatter over the remaining Parmesan and the pine nuts. Bake for 40 mins until piping hot in the centre and crunchy and golden on top. Scatter with a few extra basil leaves before serving.