A few years ago there was a programme on British TV that was a mixture between a cooking show and a celebrity interview. The would chat about their life through their memories of the food they’d eaten along the way. Not exactly a hard-hitting interrogation, I admit, but it was a pleasant enough show nonetheless.
At least it was up until the end (if I’m remembering it correctly) when things took a bit of a dark turn. The final section discussed what the guest would want as their final meal. It’s an interesting question but not exactly your typical daytime TV fluff, let’s face it. The vast majority of us never know when our last meal will be and probably don’t want to start making a guess either. Indeed, I think being able to make that choice is pretty much the preserve of prisoners on death row…
That being said it is an interesting question to ponder. If you knew you were about to have your last ever meal on earth, what would you choose? Would you go for something extravagant and over the top – after all the cost is irrelevant? Or, would you go for something comforting? You may even wonder whether you’d even have an appetite at all?
You’ve probably guessed from that long introduction – and from the page it’s on – that my choice would almost certainly be Lasagne. I’ve thought about it on more than one occasion and am pretty set on my decision. For me it’s probably the ultimate comfort food and checks all the boxes. Lots of carbs – naturally. Crispy, golden, cheesy topping – of course. Good with garlic bread – yuh huh! I’d probably be a total carb fiend and have a side order of chips too. And why ever not, I am about to die after all!
That lasagne would have to be the classic meaty ragu version, made with both beef and pork (of course). But as I wasn’t expecting this to be my last ever meal – which it fortunately wasn’t on this occasion – I thought I’d mix things up a bit. This one is made with two sauces – one chicken and pesto, the other butternut squash and mascarpone cheese. Oh and topped with more mascarpone because… well, just because.
The pesto chicken layers, made with spinach for extra goodness (and to offset the guilt of all the cheese), bring a lovely fresh flavour. The butternut squash adds a bit of sweetness and a whole lot of creamy, cheesy goodness. Certainly not a low-fat or diet friendly food, I admit. But then again, lasagne never should be.
Let’s face it, you never know when it may be your last…
Chicken, Pesto and Butternut Squash Lasagne
For the Chicken and Pesto Sauce
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 Red Onions peeled and finely chopped
- 4 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
- 450 g Chicken Breast cut into 1cm chunks
- 250 ml Good Quality Chicken Stock
- 6 tbsp Pesto
- 250 g Frozen Chopped Spinach defrosted and excess water squeezed out
- 1 tbsp Cornflour slaked in a splash of water
For the Butternut Squash Sauce
- 150 ml Good Quality Chicken Stock
- 500 g Butternut Squash peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
- 250 g Mascarpone Cheese
- 20 Basil Leaves finely chopped
- ¼ tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
- 1 tsp Sea Salt Flakes
- ½ Freshly Ground Black Pepper
For the Lasagne
- 12-15 sheets Dried Lasagne
- 250 g Mascarpone Cheese
- 3 tbsp Milk
- ¼ tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
- 50 g Parmesan Cheese grated
- 6 Basil Leaves
Make the Chicken and Pesto Sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes until softened and starting to turn translucent. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute or so until fragrant – make sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
- Add in the chicken and stir fry for a couple of minutes, until sealed on all sides. Pour over the stock, then stir in the pesto and chopped spinach. Bring to a simmer, then add the the cornflour mixture before stirring until well mixed and thickened.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Make the Butternut Squash Sauce
- Pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add in the chopped butternut squash then reduce the heat to low. Put on a well-fitting lid and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the squash is tender. Stir occasionally to ensure it cooks evenly.
- When tender, remove from the heat and roughly mash the squash – you want it to retain some texture. Stir in the mascarpone, followed by the chopped basil, nutmeg and seasoning. Allow to cool slightly.
Assemble the Lasagne
- Pre-heat the oven to 160°C
- Put half of the chicken pesto mixture into the bottom of a deep oven-proof dish and spread out to the edges. Top with 4-5 lasagne sheets, depending on the size of your dish.
- Spoon the butternut squash over the top, followed by another layer of pasta.
- Add the rest of the chicken mixture to the dish and top with a final layer of pasta.
- Mix the remaining mascarpone with the milk and nutmeg, along with half of the parmesan. Spread over the top of the lasagne, then sprinkle over the remaining parmesan.
- Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden and the pasta is tender.
- Remove from the oven and decorate with the basil leaves. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving – it will be too hot to eat straight away and resting it allows the layers to firm up a little.
|Estimated Values per Serving|
|of which Saturates||16||g|
|of which Sugars||8||g|
|Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.|