Gobble this

Give veg-head friends a turkey-less treat

The annual Thanksgiving culinary decathlon is just a week away. When I'm planning the event, one of the first things I like to know is who eats what. Translation: Anyone who can't or won't eat the holiday bird?

Chances are there is at least one dinner guest who swings the non-turkey way. The old routine of making up a plate of sides may seem genuine enough, but I bet that stuffing contains sausage and that gravy isn't made from mushrooms. Just a hunch.

A way toward achieving mixed-company feasting bliss is to make a veggie dish that feels like a star, not supporting cast. Consider this lasagna, with a few seasonal twists. Butternut squash, walnuts and sage — that old Thanksgiving fave — are running this fall show. Filling in for the usual ricotta-manicotti duo is a lovely gruyere-parmesan pair, offering more depth and less cheesy water. Allow at least one hour of pre-assembly prep, but who said you couldn't make it in advance and bake in time for turkey trimmings?

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Lasagna

Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison

3 1/2 cups milk

Aromatics: 1 each: garlic clove, slice onion,

bay leaf, parsley sprig

1 large butternut squash (approximately 3

pounds), peeled, seeded and diced

4 garlic cloves

Approximately 20 fresh sage leaves or 1 1/2

tablespoons dried

1/2 cup parsley leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 cup walnuts or hazelnuts, finely chopped

3 1/2 tablespoons each butter and flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup marinara sauce or tomato puree

(optional)

1 8-ounce package no-boil lasagna noodles

(Barilla brand is a personal fave)

1 cup each grated Gruyere and Parmesan

cheese

Butter or oil a 9x13 baking dish.

In a small pot, gently heat milk with aromatics. When it's nearly boiling, cover pot, turn off heat and let stand until you're ready to assemble lasagna.

Chop two of the garlic cloves with the sage and parsley, set aside.

Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add diced squash and onion and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat and continue cooking, until squash is fairly tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic-herb mixture and nuts. Stir and cook for a few minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste, turn off heat.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make bechamel sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan and stir in flour. Roux will form quickly; cook for about 1 minute, constantly stirring. Pour milk over a strainer into roux, whisking. Lower heat and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste and 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg.

Assemble lasagna: Spread 1/2 cup of bechamel on the surface of the baking dish. (Alternatively, use equal amount tomato puree.) Lay three or four noodles on top. Cover with half the squash mixture, 1 cup of the sauce, half the Gruyere, one third of the Parmesan. Repeat, beginning with noodles, finishing with a third layer of noodles. Spread remaining sauce on top, plus remaining Parmesan. Seal pan with a foil tent. (May be held in fridge one day in advance.)

Bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and continue baking until bubbly and golden, at least 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let rest before serving. Feeds at least six.

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