Making lasagna takes time and effort, but when you’re done, you have a huge pan of food to feed a crowd. This vegetarian version swaps in layers of polenta for the noodles and has roasted butternut squash and herbed ricotta cheese mixed with Swiss chard stacked in between. For even more flavor, fresh Asiago and Gruyère cheeses are mixed into the filling and sprinkled on top. Serve this unique and satisfying dish for Thanksgiving or bring it to a potluck.
What to buy: For this recipe, make sure to use fresh Asiago cheese, which has a mild flavor and semifirm texture. If you can’t find it, you can substitute provolone. Don’t substitute aged Asiago, which is a saltier, firm grating cheese.
- Yields: 6 to 8 servings
- Difficulty: Medium
- Total: 2 hrs 30 mins
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2/3 cup small-dice shallot (from about 3 medium shallots)
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 3 1/2 cups water, plus more as needed
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 1/2 cups polenta (or coarsely ground cornmeal)
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (about 5 ounces)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 pound Swiss chard (about 2 bunches), stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
- 1 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
- 1 cup shredded fresh Asiago cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
- 1 large egg
- Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1/3 cup of the shallots, the rosemary, and thyme, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 4 minutes.
- Increase the heat to high, add the measured water, milk, and measured salt, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and, while whisking constantly, slowly pour in the polenta in a thin, steady stream until all of it is incorporated and there are no lumps.
- Cook, whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon occasionally, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan and the grains have softened, about 35 to 40 minutes. (If the polenta starts to get too thick before it’s done, add water 1/4 cup at a time as necessary.) Meanwhile, prepare the squash.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash, then trim the ends. Cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each half crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the slices in a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the oil, season generously with salt and pepper, and toss with your hands to evenly coat. Spread the squash in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast until knife tender, about 20 minutes. Wipe out the bowl and set it aside (no need to wash it). When the squash is ready, transfer it to a wire rack to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.
- When the polenta is ready, stir in the Gruyère cheese until it’s melted and evenly incorporated. Taste and season with salt as needed. Transfer the polenta mixture to a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula, spread it into an even layer; set aside.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the remaining 1/3 cup of shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high, add the wine, and cook until it has almost evaporated, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the chard, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing constantly with tongs, until it’s completely wilted and tender and the liquid has almost evaporated, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a colander in the sink and let it sit, stirring occasionally, until it’s cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
- When the chard mixture has cooled, squeeze large handfuls to release any excess liquid and transfer to a cutting board. Finely chop and place in the reserved bowl. Add the ricotta and 3/4 cup of the Asiago and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the egg and stir until evenly combined.
- Assemble the lasagna: Cut the polenta in half crosswise (you should have 2 pieces that are approximately 8 by 6 inches each). Using a flat spatula, transfer 1 of the halves in large pieces to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and, using your hands, press into an even layer to completely cover the bottom of the dish. Using a rubber spatula, evenly dollop half of the ricotta mixture over the polenta and spread it into an even layer. Evenly shingle half of the squash pieces over the ricotta mixture. Repeat the layers once more with the remaining halves of the polenta, ricotta mixture, and squash. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of Asiago cheese.
- Bake until the cheese is melted and the top is golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.