I actually grew up not liking the traditional tomato-meat sauce lasagna. It's strange. I remember when my family would eat at Italian restaurants, one of my brothers would always order lasagna. To this day, I'm pretty sure it's still one of his favorite foods. I, however, would always order Fettuccine Alfredo. When I was a teenager, my mom found an awesome Vegetable Lasagna that I fell in love with. I don't remember the recipe exactly, but it had a homemade cheesy sauce (cottage cheese mixed with parmesan + sauce with Italian 5-Cheese Blend) with assorted veggies sandwiched between layers of no-boil lasagna noodles. Yum!
When I graduated college, my husband bought me The Complete Pasta Cookbook for either my birthday or Christmas. It was a fantastic cookbook for a person who followed the Standard American Diet (SAD). I ate a lot of pasta back then. The new lasagna recipe used a meat sauce and a cheddar cheese sauce in between the pasta layers. Such a delicious and decadent dish.
Do you see the trend? I liked cheesy sauces in my pasta dishes.
I converted to Paleo in June 2012. One of the foods I missed were my pasta dishes. I started thinking about lasagna. Besides, meat sauces are easily made Paleo. I had to figure out what to use for the layers in place of pasta. I also wanted some sort of creamy sauce to replicate the sauce from both the vegetarian lasagna and cheddar cheese sauce of the lasagna I loved in my Pre-Paleo days. I already knew how to make an alfredo sauce out of cashews. It had to work! The layers I came up with: butternut squash, zucchini and yellow squash. All can be sliced pretty thin. It's not quite the same as your SAD Lasagna using pasta, but I love it. It's one of our favorite dishes and full of so much flavor. We've had friends make this recipe and they loved it too.
Paleo Rating: 8 clubs
2 lbs. grass-fed ground beef
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, partially drained (otherwise, you’ll have really soupy lasagna)
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 t. dried oregano
sea salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
Cashew “Alfredo” sauce
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 6 hours
8 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup nutritional yeast
2 t. sea salt
1 butternut squash
2 yellow squash
Soak the raw cashews in water for at least 6 hours.
Make your meat sauce first. Add the grass-fed ground beef and sausage into a large pot. Cook over medium-high heat until no longer pink. I suggest draining off some most of the fat, reserving a couple tablespoons in the pot. Using the reserved fat rendered from the meat, sauté the onions, carrots, mushrooms and celery (keep the meat in the pot). Once veggies are tender, add the garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Bring to a boil and let simmer, stirring occasionally.
While the meat sauce is simmering, prepare your butternut squash. Easiest way to prepare it:
1) Cut the top and bottoms of the squash, so you have flat ends
2) Cut it in half lengthwise
3) Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff.
4) Peel both halves.
5) Slice the solid parts into relatively thin sheets/slices. These will be your layer. The bottom parts can be reserved for another use (such as roasted maple butternut squash).
Next, make your cashew sauce. Drain and rinse your raw cashews. Add the cashews to your blender (I use my Vitamix). Add enough cold water to cover the cashews. Blend until creamy and smooth. Sauté the minced garlic in the olive oil in a small frying pan until golden. Add oil and garlic to the cashew sauce. Add sea salt and nutritional yeast. Blend again until incorporated and smooth.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Now, you’re ready to put together the lasagna. Add a little bit of meat sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish (I used an 11x13). Drizzle a bit of cashew sauce over the meat. Add a layer of butternut squash sheets. Do not overlap them. Add a layer of meat sauce and cashew sauce. Then add your yellow squash slices. Add another layer of meat sauce and cashew sauce. Add a layer of zucchini slices. Top with more meat sauce and the rest of the cashew sauce. Bake in the preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes.
I've made this dish a number of times. One time I tried it without the butternut squash, but both my husband and I like it best with the butternut squash included. If you didn't want to spend the time layering the lasagna, you could just make a lasagna casserole. You could chop up the zucchini, yellow squash and butternut squash. You could mix the veggies with the meat and alfredo sauces and bake. It's a forgiving recipe. If you wanted to use a different veggie to layer (such as eggplant), you could definitely do that. Hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do. It's definitely a dish you want to make on the weekend (or prep on the weekends and you could put it together fairly quickly after work).