The centerpiece of many a Thanksgiving table next week will be a golden turkey. It’s iconic, classic, and screams “Thanksgiving” to most people. But what if you don’t eat meat?
Vegetarians used to be relegated to a shaped tofu concoction by the meat eaters, but that doesn’t seem very fair. Do you know how hard it is to properly prepare tofu? Trust me, it’s a skill, and not one to attempt to learn on Thanksgiving. So I present to you, a better alternative, a vegetarian savory pumpkin lasagna composed of gorgeous layers of melted Gruyere cheese, pumpkin puree, spinach, and caramelized onions. It smells heavenly, tastes like everything a Thanksgiving main dish should taste like, and if you follow my advice about keeping caramelized onions on hand, can be assembled in about 10 minutes.
I actually have a story about the cheese in this lasagna. I went to the local Wegman’s, because I like their cheese selection, and was browsing around the cheese section, wearing the toddler, smelling cheese and talking to A like she was well versed in cheese. Once of the staff noticed, came over to ask if I needed any help, and something told me she was a kindred spirit. It may be because her name was also Mary, or she had a great smile. Anyway, I told her about my vision for this lasagna and how I wanted to pick a really great cheese that would pair well, add flavor, and make this vegetarian Thanksgiving dish really stunning. We had a great conversation about food and cooking, and mutually decided the Gruyere would be the best option. They even had shredded Gruyere, which made me incredibly happy. Buy shredded if you find it to save a little time.
I left the store that day so happy, and determined to make this dish in the spirit of that conversation. I wanted this savory pumpkin lasagna to be something that would bring people together over a meal and leave them smiling.
- 1 9 oz package no-boil lasagna noodles
- 2/3 cup caramelized onions see notes if you don't have on hand
- 1 lb fresh spinach chopped
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp fresh oregano
- 3 cups shredded gruyere cheese
Brush the bottom of a 9x13" baking pan with olive oil, set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium flame. Add the fresh spinach and garlic, saute until the spinach wilts. Stir in the caramelized onions. If you didn't use caramelized onions in this step and had to cook down fresh, just add the spinach to the onions in the pan and wilt. Remove from the spinach from the skillet.
In the same pan, combine the pumpkin with the salt, pepper, and oregano. Stir in the cream and milk, and cook, stirring frequently, over medium low heat for 4-5 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly. Adjust salt, pepper, and oregano to taste.
Prepare the lasagna by pouring 1 cup of the sauce into the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of noodles, a layer of spinach, 2/3 cup of cheese, 1/2 cup sauce, and then another layer of noodles. Repeat until you've used all the noodles. Pour over any remaining sauce and top with cheese.
Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes, covered. Remove the foil and bake an additonal 10-15 minutes uncovered until the cheese has slightly browned.
If you don't have caramelized onions on hand. You can either choose to caramelize onions (which takes about 30 minutes), or just saute 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped fresh onion in 2 tbsp olive oil over medium low heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until translucent and a pale golden.