Sunday dinner comfort using sweet butternut squash layered in a flavorful lasagna casserole!
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Season changes and fresh menu plans!
Those fall schedules do something to you, don’t they? The warm air hangs on for a while around here, but we catch glimpses of cool, crisp mornings, and with new school routines speckled into our weekly rhythm, I’ve been feeling the itch to turn the oven on for slow cooked, comforting dinners on the weekends.
Oh yes, it is absolutely a thing! And when you don’t have those special noodles in the pantry, you figure out a way to still get those flavors in the oven. One week, I thought about making lasagna soup instead, but I had squash on the counter and other various veggies that I did not want to go to waste, so we did this lasagna in a veggie casserole style, and I’m telling you, it is definitely a keeper! And listen, I love traditional lasagna – there is absolutely nothing wrong with it! This was just a fun dinner change up – and I think you will find that the kids will love this new squash prep! It is so fun!
The method :: Squash
While the different components look intimidating at first, I promise you that this prep rolls fast. Especially because there are no noodles to fuss with! Use a very sharp knife to slice thin rounds of squash for the “noodle” layer in your lasagna casserole. You’ll want between 20 and 30 rounds. If you make your squash rounds any thicker than what I’m showing here, you’ll just want to adjust your cook time longer.
The method :: The meat sauce
Here’s where you’ll want to spend some time. I promise that caramelizing the onions, peppers, and mushrooms is worth the 10 or so minute wait. Melt some butter into your large skillet and let the heat do some work on those veggies. Everyone will be “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” over the meat sauce flavor! You could make the meat sauce on your prep day if you want to pull it out easy from the fridge as you assemble your lasagna.
The method :: The bechemel cream sauce
It’s easier than it sounds! This cream sauce is just a seasoned, thickened milk mixture. This creamy addition feels so decadent swirled into the lasagna – like an indulgent, cheesy dream in the middle of the casserole. And the added bonus of only taking a few minutes to prep doesn’t give you any reason to leave it out!
The casserole assembly
You’ll first cover the bottom of your casserole pan with that flavorful meat sauce and then start layering those squash rounds. Just like with any lasagna, imperfection is all a part of being homemade. There is no reason to make the squash fit perfectly – overlap the ends and cover every inch! You’ll spread that creamy bechemel sauce layer and then add more meat sauce – this heavenly mixture of savory meat sauce with that creamy mixture is what makes this casserole feel so comforting. You’ll do another layer or so, and then bake the casserole for a half our before topping with…cheese of course!
While this amazing dinner is more weekend prep in nature, I do think that with a few prep ahead tips, you could make this on a weekday.
- Make the meat sauce and cream sauce on your prep day. You could do one or both on a Saturday or Sunday prep day, and just store it in an air tight container in the fridge until you need it.
- Slice the squash ahead of time. I promise this does go fast once you get the hang of it! If you decide to peel and cut ahead of time, just store the rounds in an air tight container so they don’t dry out.
- Assemble the entire casserole ahead of time and store it in the fridge covered. You can pull it out on the night you need it and just pop it in the oven. This would also be a great way to prep for a friend in need (new momma, an ill friend, or just because!) – what an easy to digest meal for just about everyone!
Gluten Free Butternut Squash Lasagna Casserole
FOR THE MEAT SAUCE
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 bell pepper diced
- 8 oz mushrooms sliced
- 2-3 cups chopped kale
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 lb grassfed ground beef
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1 ½ cups of your favorite marinara sauce
FOR THE BECHEMEL CREAM SAUCE
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup rice flour you could use cassava flour if you are grain free
- 2 ¼ cups full fat coconut milk or whole milk
- 2 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp pepper
FOR THE REST OF THE SQUASH LASAGNA
- 1 small to medium butternut squash peeled and sliced into thin cross-section slices
- Your favorite cheese to top the lasagna – anywhere from 1-3 cups per your preference.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
MAKE THE MEAT SAUCE
- Melt the butter into a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion, pepper, mushrooms, kale, and a big pinch of sea salt. Cook over medium high heat for about 10 minutes until the veggies are soft, fragrant, and slightly caramelized.
- Add the garlic and cook for a minute, and then add the ground beef, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Break the beef up and mix it into the cooked veggies, browning the beef.
- Add the marainara sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.
MAKE THE BECHEMEL SAUCE
- Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat, and then whisk the flour in to make a paste.
- Slowing pour the milk into the sauce pan, whisking along the way so that the roux incorporates into the milk to thicken it. Whisk the salt in pepper in as well.
- Simmer until the cream sauce thickens about a minute or so.
ASSEMBLE AND BAKE THE SQUASH LASAGNA
- Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce along the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
- Line up one layer of the squash rounds, overlapping them some, and then spread ½ of the cream sauce over the top of the layer of squash.
- Spread another 1/3 of the meat sauce over the top of the cream sauce, and then add another layer of butternut squash rounds, overlapping them making sure to fit squash in every spot – you can cut the rounds a little if you wish so that they fit.
- Spread the last 1/3 of the meat sauce over the top of the squash and bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Pull the lasagna out of the oven, top with shredded cheese, and bake another 5-10 minutes until bubbly and melted.