I may be a Food Coach, but I love comfort food as much as the next person. In fact, cheese + carbs (together) might collectively be my favorite food group.
That said, indulging every day is not in the cards for me: not only does eating like crap make me feel like crap physically, but frankly, I know how much food affects my mood and performance. So, I often try to make “healthified” versions of less-than-healthy dishes for the indulgence without the guilt (or stomachache).
Most often, that means using vegetables as a vehicle for a delicious sauce, adding a sprinkle of cheese (instead of a truckload) for taste, and being creative about how to recreate familiar flavors + textures. This is how I came up with my new winter comfort food favorite: Butternut Squash “Lasagna” with Sausage-Tomato-Cream Sauce.
Just a little sweet from the butternut squash and cream, plus a hint of spicy sausage and tomato, with a gooey cheese topping, this lasagna is even better than the carb-filled version. (Not that it’s necessarily uber low carb. I categorize butternut squash as a “smart carb”: nutrient-dense, fiber-filled, minimally processed – so less impact on blood sugar – and of course, delicious.)
I’ve only tested this recipe with the ingredients below, but I’m sure it would be just as good with chicken sausage, ground turkey (just add Italian seasonings), vegan sausage or vegan cheese, or without cream if any of those are up your alley. If you experiment with it, let me know how it goes!
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled + sliced into lasagna “noodles” (save bulb for roasting or soup)
- 1 medium white onion, sliced
- 1/2 – 3/4 lb bulk pork sausage (Italian, Garlic + Herb; can substitute chicken sausage; if using group turkey, add fresh garlic + Italian seasonings)
- 2 cups canned diced tomatoes (organic/BPA-free can if possible) or tomato sauce (I like Rao’s)
- 1 cup+ Italian shredded cheese blend (I like Whole Food’s version which has provolone, asiago, mozzarella); could also use sliced or shredded mozzarella + pecorino romano or parmesan (something sharp for flavor)
- optional: several cups fresh baby spinach, baby kale, or other green to preference (don’t use frozen as it will let off water, and butternut squash will as well)
- Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees. (It really depends on your oven, and doesn’t matter – you will just cook the dish longer or for less time.)
- Peel butternut squash, slicing off ends and setting aside bulb. Using a very sharp knife, slice vertically as thinly as possible, creating lasagna “noodles.”
- Peel + slice onion.
- Meanwhile, brown ground sausage in a large skillet, about 5-8 minutes. If a lot of fat renders, you may want to set sausage aside and discard excess fat. Otherwise, once browned and mostly cooked, add onions.
- Cook onions until soft and translucent, another 3-minutes. Turn off heat and add tomatoes or sauce and baby spinach if using.
- Take a baking dish of your choice and arrange a layer of butternut squash noodles. Top with a layer of sauce. Repeat 2 or more times until sauce + squash are used; finish with a layer of squash.
- Sprinkle with a layer of shredded cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Place in a 375-400 degree oven for at least 45 minutes. Check after 40 minutes; using a fork, see if you can easily pierce through the squash.
- Once cooked to your liking, turn on overhead broiler (if you have) to finish cheese. Serve immediately.
Note that due to squash and tomatoes, there may be some watery liquid in the dish after you cut; if you have leftovers and put in the refrigerator, those may solidify with excess rendered fat. You can scoop that out and discard.
I love serving this with another green vegetable like broccoli sauteed with garlic.