Happy New Year! Today I’m sharing my take on one of the dishes served at my wedding last year. Finding a caterer was a nightmare because I’m about as picky as they come with food. We interviewed many companies, all falling short of my super fresh, local, and truly delicious standard. If I heard about one more arugula and goat cheese salad with caramelized walnuts or a noodle station served in Chinese food containers I was going to scream! I wanted in season, hearty yet healthy fare that would elevate veggies to main meal status. I’m a hold-the-cow-steak and give-me-a-cauliflower-steak kind of girl.
Luckily my mom mentioned a fairly new farmer’s market food stall turned store front called The Farmer and the Chickpea that turned out perfect! The first time I went and ate their food it was a match made in heaven, and when I met the two owners we hit it off right away. Their food philosophy is not only serving in season produce, but picked that morning produce. Almost all of their fare is vegetarian with a ton of vegan and gluten free options and the few meat dishes they have comes from local pasture farms (including their cheese!!). With big portions and a menu that changes daily (depending on what their farmers drop off), how could I not love it?!
One of the awesome dishes they provided was a noodle-less beet and butternut squash lasagna, crusted in chickpeas and topped with fresh ricotta. It was a huge hit, and also a genius way to use beets. I always find myself pondering how to cook beets when I buy a bunch. It’s not that they are bad, just tricky to cook and feature as the main meal. My go-to use for beets is throwing them in a big veggie bake, diced small, to disperse their earthy flavor. I was shocked at how much I loved the roasted beets in the lasagna, so I made a mental note to recreate it at home.
Almost three months later, I finally got around to it! My mom beat me to the punch, making it over christmas with much success. I actually preferred my mom’s version to the original, as her bake had crispier chickpeas as the bottom crust and was generally less greasy. When making my own version, I added some caramelized beet greens for color and distinctive layers of squash and beets. The original dish was more a scoop of delicious cheesy roasted squash and beets, broken into big chunks, and I opted for a more neat and tidy approach, wanting something that would hold together when cut and plated.
I am thrilled with how it came out! Now, it does take a bit of time to assemble because you have to roast the squash and beets before slicing and assembling, however this recipe makes a large 9×13 tray so it will last for awhile. I like the roast the beets, squash, and garlic the day before, so they are ready to go in the fridge. This bake is delicious, nutritious, and super seasonal. Enjoy!
Beet and Butternut Bake
3 cups cooked chickpeas, patted dry
1 butternut squash, about 2-3 lbs
2 bunches beets (3 large or 4 small per punch), greens on
2 sweet onions
3-4 Tbsp olive oil, separated
2 roasted garlic bulbs
1 lb full fat ricotta
1 large egg
1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese + 2 Tbsp
~2 cups grated asiago cheese
1 Tbsp dried parsley
salt and pepper
dry rosemary, in a grinder (or fresh chopped)
- Cut the beet greens (including the stems) into thin pieces and place in a large bowl. Soak in cold water, then place by hand in a strainer to dry(beet greens are quite sandy, and if you dump the whole pot into the strainer you are putting the sand right back on the greens). Wash the beets and arrange 3/4 on two large pieces of tin foil. Pinch the foil around the beets creating a sealed pocket. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place face-down on a parchment lined baking tray. Cut the top of both the garlic bulbs off. Place each one on a piece of tin foil and seal by pinching the foil together. Place the wrapped beet packets and garlic on a baking tray in the oven. Put the squash in the oven as well. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until beets and squash are tender. The garlic will be fragrant, and when unwrapped from the foil soft and golden brown on top.
- Peel and slice the onions thin, then add to a pan with 2 Tbsp of oil. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat down to low and let caramelize for at least 15 minutes, or up to an hour. Add the washed beet green tops and cook until very tender.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line the base of a 9×13″ pan with tin foil, then parchment paper. Spread the chickpeas evenly over the bottom of the pan and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp pecorino romano cheese then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Toss to combine then place in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring after 10. Beans should be golden brown when done.
- Remove the skin from the roasted squash (also the beets if you are not using organic). Slice thin (about 1/8-1/4″ inch pieces). Set aside. Mix the ricotta cheese with the egg, 1/4 cup pecorino romano, dried parsley, and salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Add the roasted garlic to the ricotta by opening the top of the tin foil, folding it until it’s even with the cut top of the garlic, and squeezing the sides. Discard the skin and foil.
- Toss the roasted chickpeas with a pinch of asiago. Layer the butternut squash evenly over the chickpeas and gently spread a thin layer of ricotta and sprinkle with asiago. Add a layer of beets. Spread the cooked beet greens evenly over the beets.
- Gently spread another thin layer of ricotta on the beet greens and sprinkle with asiago. Layer the rest of the butternut squash and sprinkle with asiago. Arrange the last layer of beets. Dollop the top of each beet slice with the rest of the ricotta and sprinkle with asiago, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and rosemary. Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes at 375 F before removing the tin foil and bake another 15-20 minutes. Let cool completely before storing covered in the fridge. Re-heat by placing, covered, in a 350 F oven until warmed through.