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Pumpkin Lasagna for a Cozy New Year’s Menu

By now you’ve heard the message that the holidays won’t look the same this year. A New Year’s fest filled with friends drinking champagne and eating cheesy snacks might not be in the cards this year, but maybe the queen of all casseroles could take its place.

Looking at you, lasagna.

Before you protest that it’s too much work for your socially distanced holiday celebration, hear us out. Lasagna is a time-intensive project, there’s no getting around it. But what better way to spend a winter afternoon than making a super-satisfying dish with a festive presentation for a cozy wintry dinner—for a holiday meal or not. Freeze a few pieces for a weeknight night down the road, and/or even wrap up a few portions and gift to a friend who is tired of cooking but still wants to eat well. When you think of it like that, it’s time well-spent.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making lasagna:

  1. Get organized: Lasagna isn’t complicated, but it does have a lot of steps. With a dish like this, it pays to read the recipe carefully and get all of your prep done before you start cooking.
  2. Clean as you go: Since you’re making pumpkin sauce, pork and chard filling, boiling noodles, and grating a bunch of cheese, it’s worth it to clean up after yourself as much as you can throughout the process so you’re not looking at a huge pile of dirty dishes when you’re done.
  3. Pay attention: If you’ve never made bechamel before, it is a sauce that requires close attention to detail, so clear out any distractions when it’s time to cook so you can focus on making things delicious!
  4. Rest it: Just like when you cook meat, give the lasagna a 10-minute rest to give the layers time to knit together after they come out of the oven. If you rush it, the lasagna pieces won’t hold together as well.
  5. Don’t sweat it: Lasagna is quintessential comfort food: Rich, cheesy, and cozy – it’s going to be good!
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Cozy Pumpkin Lasagna with Pork, Fennel, and Chard

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Protein: Pork
Course: Main Course
Prep Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12

Ingredients

For the pumpkin bechamel

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk warmed
  • 1/2 medium shallot peeled
  • 2 to 3 sage sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more, to taste
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the pork filling

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard rinsed and trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium shallot peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 medium fennel bulb cored and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Pinch chile flakes
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the lasagna

  • 1 12-ounce package fresh lasagna sheets
  • 1 pound fontina cheese shredded
  • 4 ounces parmigiano reggiano cheese shredded

Instructions

For the pumpkin bechamel

  • Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it’s melted and foamy, slowly sprinkle in the flour, whisking as you go. It will mix with the butter into what looks like loose paste. Continue to whisk until the flour and butter are totally combined and the paste is starting to smell toasty, about 1 minute.
  • Slowly pour the milk into the flour, whisking constantly. Once all milk is combined, stir in salt, sage sprigs and shallot, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove and discard sage and shallot. Stir in the pumpkin puree and nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then set aside. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the sauce to keep a skin from forming.

For the pork filling

  • Separate chard stems and leaves. Chop the stems into ¼-inch pieces and the leaves into ½ -inch pieces. Set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it foams, add the shallot, chard stems, fennel, fennel seeds, chile flakes, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sage and cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Add the pork, stirring to combine it with the aromatics. Spread meat into a single layer, increase heat to medium-high, and cook without moving for about 3 to 4 minutes to brown the meat. Reduce heat to medium, flip and continue to cook, stirring, for another minute.
  • Add wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until the liquid has evaporated a bit, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook, stirring, until they have wilted into the mixture.
  • Reduce heat to medium low and add the cream. Stir to combine, taste and adjust seasoning. Simmer for 2 to 3 more minutes to reduce the sauce. Set aside.

For the lasagna

  • Heat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Cut each of the lasagna sheets in half for a total of 12 pieces. Place a colander in the sink and line a sheet pan with a towel. When the water boils, cook the pasta, 2 pieces at a time, for about 2 minutes each. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a colander. Run cool water over them. When cool, transfer to the lined sheet pan.
  • To assemble, spread ¾ cup bechamel sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Cover with 3 pieces of the cut lasagna sheets. Spread ¼ of the remaining bechamel over the pasta, followed by ⅓ of the pork filling, and ¼ each of the remaining fontina and parm.
  • Repeat this process three times, until you’ve used all of the meat. Finish with the remaining pieces of pasta, bechamel, and cheese, in that order. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is browned, slightly puffed, and bubbling at the edges.
  • Remove from the oven and rest lasagna for at least 10 minutes before serving.
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