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ONE SMALL GESTURE to consider when cooking for a group, whether you’re hosting at home or toting a dish to a potluck: Make each portion feel special somehow. I learned this working in restaurants, making and eating many staff meals. Those meals also taught me that the best and least stressful recipe for feeding a group can be assembled ahead of time and simply heated up when the time comes.
This recipe for lasagna roll-ups checks both those boxes. It’s a big, hearty, family-style, make-ahead meal, put together in such a way that the portions plate up less like big, sloppy slices, more like pretty pasta pinwheels.
Instead of spreading filling between wide layers of pasta, as in a typical lasagna, here you roll each serving of lemony basil-ricotta filling inside its own pasta package and tuck it alongside the other adorable roll-ups in a baking dish. A lush sauce of butternut squash, pine nuts and plenty of butter pulls it all together. The result isn’t heavy, but it does feel luxurious.
If you’d like to make the dish vegetarian, swap in vegetable stock for the chicken stock. And if you have no plans to feed a crowd on the horizon, the individual roll-ups can easily be frozen in smaller batches. So whether you’re planning to feed a party in a few hours or your future self in a month, this lasagna is a gift.
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Be sure to have a few clean kitchen towels handy when you make this recipe, to layer between the lasagna noodles as they drain.
- Kosher salt
- 2 (1-pound) boxes lasagna noodles
- 2 (15-ounce) containers ricotta (about 1 ¾ cups)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
- Finely grated zest of 5 lemons
- ¼ cup crème fraîche
- 1 cup chopped basil, plus more for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 medium shallots, sliced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
- ½ medium butternut squash, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons cold butter
- Flaky sea salt
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add lasagna noodles and cook, stirring occasionally to ensure noodles don’t stick together, until noodles are malleable, about 7 minutes. (Pasta can be cooked in two batches if necessary.) While noodles cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Drain and rinse noodles under cold water. Line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel and lay noodles on top, making sure there is a clean towel between each layer so that noodles don’t stick together.
- Make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, zest of 4 lemons, crème fraîche and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in refrigerator. (Filling can be made a day ahead and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)
- Make the sauce: Toast pine nuts in oven until golden brown all over and aromatic, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots and chile flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add squash and chicken stock. Season with salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to maintain a rolling simmer. Continue to cook until squash is fork tender, 6-8 minutes.
- Carefully transfer squash mixture to a blender. Add pine nuts and butter. Blend until smooth. (If you have a smaller blender, this step can be done in batches and re-combined in a large bowl.) Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)
- Pour about three-fourths of the sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Lay one lasagna noodle flat on a clean work surface. Spread about 2½ tablespoons filling down the center of the noodle. Use a flat butter knife or small offset spatula to spread filling evenly from one end to the other. (This doesn’t have to be perfect.) Roll up noodle into a tight cylinder and place in baking dish, on top of sauce, standing upright. Repeat with remaining noodles and filling until baking dish is full, with about four rolls across and six rolls running the length of the dish. (Lasagna roll-ups can be made a day ahead of time, covered tightly in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator. Remove plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature about 1 hour before transferring to oven.)
- Before baking, cover dish loosely with aluminum foil. Bake in center of oven until sauce is bubbling and sides of roll-ups are slightly golden, 20-25 minutes. Uncover and cook until edges of pasta begin to brown, 5-10 minutes. To serve, garnish with more grated Parmesan, chopped basil and lemon zest. Drizzle olive oil all over and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
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