“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
This post was sponsored by Farmer John but all words, opinions, and love of food and holiday gatherings are my own.
I’m sitting on my mother’s couch, unnecessarily bundled up against Southern California’s winter climate. The Christmas tree is a blaze of lights and ornaments, there are a few fat cats milling around. Simon and I are laughing along with my mother and sister at something my brother just said. The theme of the day is lounge and indulge. Something festive is no doubt playing on the TV in the background. And the food, there is an abundance—both traditional and non, snacks, and sides, and main dishes and drinks—and it’s just as an important a part of the day as any other element. This is Christmas at my mom’s house.
Are we alone in this? Food and tradition. Food and memory. Cooking and eating with family is such an integral element of my existence. A thread throughout my childhood that I can follow back to the earliest of memories. Baking cookies with my mom around the holidays. Boxes of baked good sent from my grandmother in Florida at Christmastime. Me sneaking my umpteenth pineapple tart from said box before dinnertime. My family’s naca tamales, beans and rice, plantains. My dad would often make his stuffed cannelloni. Sometimes there would be a turkey or ham. More often it was an assortment of our favorite Nicaraguan and American dishes.
I think for many, comfort food in winter or around the holidays is a given. In my family the tradition seems to be one of non-tradition. We cook what we want or what we feel like. Sometimes there is a definitive plan, other times more of a loose outline. This year however I have been wanting to make a winter lasagna; a hearty pasta dish, something that is indulgent and rich and all of the other things comfort food should be.
With the help of Farmer John I accomplished this. Using their Ground Pork and All-Natural Bacon I made a roasted butternut squash lasagna, with sage, and kale, and an Asiago béchamel. A welcome winter-inspired departure from the traditional marinara sauce, this roasted squash sauce is simple to make but full of incredible flavor. The creamy béchamel with rosemary Asiago goes perfectly with the pork and sautéed bacon. You could add any number of herbs to this dish but sage just pairs so well with the squash, pork, and ricotta. And the earthy kale adds some balance to all those rich flavors.
I didn’t stop there however. I also made some bacon and apple crostini—that works great as a side or appetizer. Sautéed bacon and apples with lemon, an herbed ricotta, and some citrusy jam on a crisp baguette! I could make a meal out of this alone! For more bacon inspiration and recipe ideas head to The Bacon Party on Instagram!
This recipe works for Christmas eve or Christmas day. It hits all those comfort food notes and will leave you content and ready for hibernation. It’s the kind of meal you crave in cold-weather. The kind of family fare that will be remembered long after every last bite has been devoured.
What are you making this Christmas? What are your traditional (or non-traditional) recipes for the holidays?
Merry Christmas Friends!
Roasted Butternut Squash, Pork, and Bacon Lasagna with Bacon & Apple Crostini
For the Butternut Squash Sauce
Makes about 5 cups
- 32 oz. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- ¼ cup onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
For the Béchamel
Makes about 2 cups
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
- Pinch of pepper
- 1 ½ cups cold milk
- 1 ½ cups grated rosemary Asiago
For the Lasagna
- 1 ½ lbs. FARMER JOHN® Ground Pork
- 6 oz. FARMER JOHN® All- Natural Bacon
- ¼ cup minced carrots
- ¼ cup minced celery
- ¼ cup minced onions
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. sage, minced
- 1/3 cup white wine, optional
- 8 oz. ricotta
- 5 cups Lacinato kale, torn into pieces
- Roasted Butternut Squash Sauce
- Oven-ready lasagna noodles (you can also use fresh or the ones you boil)
- 1 ½ cups grated Fontina
- Fresh sage leaves, brushed with a little melted butter, for topping
For the Crostini
- One French baguette, thinly sliced
- Olive oil
- 1 lb. FARMER JOHN® All- Natural Bacon
- 2 cups apples, diced + 2Tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. rosemary, minced
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 cup ricotta
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- Jam or preserves of choice (I used a rosemary blood orange jam)
Make the Butternut Squash Sauce
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange squash, onions, and garlic on the sheet.
- Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast for about 40 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender.
- Peel the garlic cloves and add to a blender or food processor along with the squash, onions, and vegetable stock. Blend until smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make the Béchamel
- In a large pot melt butter over medium heat.
- When butter is completely melted, whisk in flour and continue whisking for 1-2 minutes until it is a very light golden color. You want to cook out the raw flour taste but not burn it!
- Whisk in spices.
- Next slowly pour in milk whisking until combined.
- Allow to simmer and thicken for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Turn off the heat, add in cheese, and stir until completely melted.
Make the Lasagna
- In a large pan cook bacon over medium heat until crispy.
- Drain excess oil (I like to use tongs and paper towels to mop up excess grease, so easy!)
- Add in carrots, onion, celery, sage, and garlic. Sautee 3-5 minutes.
- Add in pork and cook through, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.
- Deglaze pan with wine if using. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil.
- Ladle some of the butternut squash sauce in the bottom of the dish and spread around evenly.
- Lay down lasagna noodles, followed by ½ the meat mixture, and ½ of the kale. Using a spoon to dollop half the ricotta, followed by 1/3 of the béchamel, and some more of the butternut squash sauce.
- End with a layer of noodles topped with béchamel and butternut squash sauce. *You can layer this in any fashion you wish! Don’t feel limited by my method!
- Top lasagna with fontina and sage leaves.
- Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes.
- Uncover and bake another 10 minutes until golden brown.
- Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Make the Crostini
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange sliced baguette on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.
- Meanwhile cook bacon in a large pan.
- When bacon is crispy, remove from pan, and drain excess grease from pan.
- Add apples to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes. You want the apples tender but not soft. Add to the bacon.
- While the apples are cooking mix the ricotta with lemon juice, rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
- To assemble the crostini spread a little jam on each slice of bread. Top with a teaspoon or two of ricotta, followed by the bacon and apple mixture.