Thirty years ago, you might not have been able to get away with serving winter vegetable lasagna at a dinner party. When they got their plates, some of your guests would politely poke around in their noodles looking for pieces of sausage or beef, anything in the way of meat.


Thirty years ago, you might not have been able to get away with serving winter vegetable lasagna at a dinner party. When they got their plates, some of your guests would politely poke around in their noodles looking for pieces of sausage or beef, anything in the way of meat.

But starting around 1970, people began to think more about the balance of meat and vegetables in their diets. It might have been the influence of ethnic foods, which were traditionally vegetarian, or the impact of animal rights movements, or the growing concern about the effect of eating meat on the environment and health. Some jumped right in, ate only grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, and declared themselves vegans.

Others took a more modified approach, called themselves semi-vegetarians, and ate chicken and fish but no red meat. In between were pescatarians who ate fish but no chicken or meat and lacto-ovo vegetarians who cut out all meat but ate eggs and dairy. While all this was going on, vegetarian cookbooks were taking up more space on bookstore shelves, and the image of a vegetarian was changing from scruffy Birkenstocks to polished wing tips.

We are now at the point where most people are happy to wolf down a vegetarian entree. A winter vegetable lasagna, filled with butternut squash, turnip greens and spinach, can be the hit of a meal. When you bring the casserole to the table, we can practically guarantee it will never occur to anyone to start searching for meat.

Winter Vegetable Lasagna

Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 (6-ounce) bag fresh spinach, chopped

Lasagna:

1 (15-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese

1 egg

2 ]cups shredded provolone cheese, divided

1 1/4 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash (1 medium squash)

12 no-boil lasagna noodles

4 cups torn turnip greens, blanched

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. To prepare sauce, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, vinegar and crushed pepper. Cook 5 minutes. Stir in spinach.

3. To prepare lasagna, combine ricotta cheese, egg, 1/2 cup provolone cheese and mashed squash; stir well.

4. Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce into bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Layer 4 uncooked noodles, turnip greens, 3/4 cup provolone, half the ricotta cheese mixture, and 1/3 of the remaining sauce. Add 4 more lasagna noodles, top with half the remaining tomato sauce, the remaining 3/4 cup provolone and remaining ricotta cheese mixture. Top with 4 more noodles, remaining tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.

5. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until top is browned. Serves 10.

Note: To cook the butternut squash, slice in half and place cut-sides down in a roasting pan. Add water up to 1 inch. Bake 45 minutes, or until tender, at 375 degrees. Scoop out pulp and mash.

Per serving: 370 calories, 16 grams fat, 20 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 570 milligrams sodium.

Look for Relish magazine, celebrating America’s love of food, each month in The Newton Kansan. For more Relish recipes, to sign up for the biweekly newsletter, or to leave a note on the message boards, log on to relishmag.com.