Life’s a Feast: Sage and chicken lasagne with butternut sauce

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The autumnal flavours of sage and butternut come together in this delicious pasta dish, guaranteed to warm the cockles and appeal to the palate. This recipe was born from having leftover chicken in the fridge, an overgrowing sage plant, and a butternut that had been sitting in my pantry for too long!

A slight twist on the usual mince lasagne, with its unctuous, creamy butternut sauce and hints of crispy sage, this will be an instant family hit. Enjoy!

PREP TIME: 25 mins

COOK TIME: 40 mins

SERVES: 5 people

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter

1 shallot, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

3 tablespoons flour

300ml milk

150g cream cheese

1.5kg butternut (or use pumpkin and push through a sieve once cooked)

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 whole cooked chicken (or use 5 chicken breasts poached for 9 minutes)

2 tablespoons butter

15-20 sage leaves

2 x 120g bags baby spinach

1 cup of cheese, grated (I used Colby)

Method

1.Pre-heat oven to 180degC. Cut the butternut or pumpkin into large chunks and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

2.Lightly oil the tray and place in butternut. Sprinkle with the nutmeg, then cover tray with tinfoil and pop in oven for about 40 minutes until the butternut is soft right through. Take out of oven once cooked and set aside to let cool to make handling a little easier.

3.Meanwhile, make the butternut sauce. Melt the butter in a large pot to a medium heat. Add the diced shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, without browning, before adding the garlic. Cook for a further 2 minutes and add the flour, stirring constantly to thoroughly combine. Cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring continuously.

4.Remove from heat and gradually add stirring quickly until smooth. Pop back on heat, stirring constantly until you can see it thicken a little more, then add a little more milk, stir again until smooth and keep going until you have used the milk. If it goes lumpy, use a whisk to make it smooth again (you may need a little more milk if too thick).

5.Stir gently until the mixture comes just to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Add salt and pepper.

6.Next pull all the chicken off the bone and shred. Set aside.

7.Boil the jug and pop the spinach into a colander and pour over boiling water to wilt. Press down on spinach to drain and set aside.

8.Scoop out the flesh from the butternut and either pop into a blender to make smooth, or push it through a sieve.

9.Tip butternut into the white sauce you have made, and thoroughly combine. Taste again as it may need some more salt.

10.Take two tablespoons of butter and melt in frypan, cook the sage until it becomes crunchy, take out and drain on a paper towel.

11.You are now ready to layer your lasagne. Spread a layer of the butternut sauce over the base of the dish then top with a layer of the lasagne sheets.

12.Evenly spread another layer of butternut sauce, then of chicken, then a layer of spinach. Next, pop on another layer of pasta, sauce, chicken, fried sage, spinach and then another pasta layer. Tip one more layer of sauce over the top before sprinkling with cheese.

13.Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes at 180degC.

14.Remove from oven and rest for about 10 minutes before serving. You can garnish with a little parsley and nutmeg. Serve with a crispy salad or fresh green beans.