As a young child, I can remember the smell of homemade lasagna wafting from the kitchen and through the house. My mom was bomb when it came to making up recipes from scratch. Here and there, she might pull out a recipe for general reference, but even today she rarely follows instructions and won’t be seen touching a measuring cup.
That’s how I’ve started to make my recipes now, too. An “eh, that looks close enough” attitude now wafts through my kitchen. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It took me a while to get here, though. As a now recovering perfectionist (who has time for perfect anyway?), I wanted measurements correct, down to the last herb leaf. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea that no matter what I did to the food, in the end, it would at least be edible. After many years of practicing and many moments of saying, “What the heck” (in cooking and in life), I’ve discovered that playing in the kitchen can be the most fun. (The only time I find this to be questionable is when baking. Compared to cooking up a casserole where it seems nothing can go wrong, baking feels like a complex chemistry experiment.)
Here’s your experiment for today: Acorn Squash Lasagna. Add a little extra spices if you like. Take away the cheese. Try butternut squash if you’re in a hurry and don’t feel like trying to peel between all those acorn squash ridges. Like your meals extra saucy? Add a few more tomatoes. Want more protein? Pile on the ground beef. You got this!
Want a little shove in the right direction to get your play on? One acorn squash is equivalent to one butternut squash (depending on the sizes). Fresh herbs have the best flavor. If you use dried herbs, use approximately ⅓ less than if you were to use fresh (dried herbs are more concentrated and potent). Some of the best herbs for lasagna are basil, parsley, and oregano – maybe even a dash of chili flakes to add a little kick. In my experimenting, those are my favorite herbs to pair with lasagna, but other Italian herbs you might want to try are: marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and sage.
Paleo Acorn Squash Lasagna
- ½ large acorn squash or 1 medium acorn squash
- 2 cans tomato sauce or 3-4 cups freshly pureed tomatoes
- 4 fresh tomatoes, sliced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb. organic grass-fed ground beef
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cheese (optional and depending on your personal dairy tolerance)
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut the acorn squash in half length-wise. Continue to cut slices between the ridges of the squash (when you embark upon this challenge you’ll understand why people don’t normally choose acorn squash for their paleo lasagna). This makes the squash easier to peel.
- Take your peeler and peel the slices of squash (the most time-consuming part of the recipe).
- Once you have the peeled chunks of squash ready, slice them in smaller strips – about ¼ inch thick. Don’t worry too much if you can’t make them as thin as you’d like; you might just have to cook it a few minutes longer.
- Your lasagna “noodles” are ready!
For the sauce:
- Head over to the skillet (cast iron are the best!) and brown your ground beef with the onions, until the meat is cooked and the onions are soft.
- If you are making your own tomato sauce to spread between layers, slice the tomatoes, pick a handful of basil, add a few tablespoons of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor. Puree.
- Mince the garlic and slice the tomatoes.
- Put it all together in a 9×9 baking dish (we used a large cast iron skillet with high sides). Layer the dish in any order you’d like.
- Start with a layer of tomato sauce to prevent the squash sticking to the bottom.
- Layer slices of squash (try not to overlap them).
- Layer ground beef and onions.
- Layer fresh tomatoes and minced garlic.
- Sprinkle cheese on between the layers and on top (optional).
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Put the dish in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes.
Photos courtesy of Savannah Wishart.