Pumpkin-Kale Lasagna with Cashew Ricotta

I realize I’m reaching here.  I’m stretching the definition of lasagna, and I may as well admit it.  There are no actual lasagna noodles as we recognize them, the traditional tomato sauce is replaced with a pumpkin ragout, and kale and cashews have apparated on the ingredient list.  I’m not the first to push the boundaries of what lasagna is - if you’ve ever seen a raw lasagna or a zucchini-noodle lasagna, you know what edge of the foodie-spectrum I’m coming from.  You’re probably a very hip and with it person in your social circle, as well, am I right?

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Well, whatever your ideas are on lasagna, all I’m saying is, this is just plain deliciousness.  Just plain, homemade-comfort, warms-the-whole-house, stick-your-face-in-it-and-gobble-it-up-who-cares-if-they’re-looking deliciousness.  That’s all.

 

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Essentially, this is a casserole.  Like, a lasagna-inspired casserole.  You can use that explanation on your dad when you make it for him later – you know, so he doesn’t look at you funny when you present him something with pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and kale, of all things, and try telling him it’s lasagna.

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Nope, I tried that for you, so I can now spare you that very look.

You might even want to skip the part that it’s healthy.  Nothing this good is supposed to be healthy either.  Maybe pass it off as some kind of heavy fare that will go over well with friends at dinner parties and/or your kids/spouse.  We’ll just keep the fiber, vitamins, and overall veggie-filled-ness of it all to ourselves.   

Really, it’s just a shame not all comfort foods can be this healthy…

Well – one thing at a time!

Pumpkin-Kale Lasagna with Cashew Ricotta (vegan + gf-friendly)

1 c. cashews

1 c. low-fat ricotta cheese (optional + use as needed)

½ small yellow onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 T. pre-minced)

1 T. olive oil

Pinch or two salt and pepper

1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin puree

12 oz homemade or no sugar added tomato sauce

1/3 c. white wine

5-6 leaves fresh sage, brunoised (sliced into thin strips lengthwise, and again widthwise)

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled

2 large kale leaves, washed, de-stemmed, and chopped

 

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Soak the cashews in enough water or almond milk to cover them, for 2-3 hours – or, if you’re in a hurry, microwave them in the liquid for 30-40 seconds to soften slightly.  Blend in a food processor with some or all of the liquid until the cashews resemble ricotta cheese.  There will be more “ricotta” than you need here – I think I probably used 1/3 to ½ the entire batch – but there has to be enough volume in the food processor to blend, so it’s best to make extra.  You can always use the extra for topping enchiladas, baked potatoes, tacos, etc.!

You can use the cashew ricotta alone if you want the recipe to be vegan, or with the regular ricotta as well.  Personally, I’d pick the cashew ricotta if I had to choose only one (the flavor is amazing with the sweet potatoes) – but I really like both together!

Do your prep at this point, including chopping the onion, garlic, and sage.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

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Heat olive oil to medium-high in a large sauce pan.  When hot, add the onions, salt, and pepper.  Sauté until barely translucent, and add garlic, sautéing one more minute.  Add pumpkin puree, tomato sauce, white wine, and fresh sage.  Bring just to a simmer, cover, and leave over a low temperature until just before you’re ready to use it.  When you need it, perhaps about 15 minutes later, scoop it all into a blender (or just use an immersion blender in the pot) and puree until smooth before using.

Put ½ a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil.

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Meanwhile, slice the sweet potatoes thinly with a mandolin, about 1/8 of an inch.  I think the mandolin is the only way to really get an even thickness for all the sweet potato slices, and you’re less likely to cut yourself if you use the hand guard it comes with – so that’s what I recommend.  Just be really careful if you’re using a knife to do this – be sure to cut a slice off a side of the potato and put that side down flat to keep the potato while you cut slices straight down from one side.

Boil the thin-sliced potatoes until they start to soften and become flexible, but not quite until they become fork-tender or they may break.  Remove the potatoes quickly and carefully to a separate dish.

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Lay down the first layer of sweet potatoes on the bottom of a cooking-sprayed large casserole dish.  Put down the kale, then the cheese, then the sauce, then the kale.  Repeat the layers at least one more time – the very top should be covered in sauce – and sprinkle on a little more cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is slightly browned and the sauce is bubbling.

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