Meat Lite: Butternut Squash Lasagna With Bacon-Braised Greens and Béchamel

This two-filling, bacon-y, béchamel-laced titan of a lasagna takes some time to prepare, but the result is well worth it. [Photograph: Lauren Rothman]

My mom, the woman from whom I learned my way around a kitchen, is a fantastic cook with great instincts, but there are a few differences in our styles. For one, her kitchen soon looks like the scene of a bomb explosion each and every time she prepares any kind of food, with dirty spoons here and cutting boards full of flour there. I, on the other hand, wipe and clean and tidy as I go along, so that at the end of dinner there aren't a million dishes to clean. Another key difference? She won't even look at a recipe that takes longer than an hour to prepare, preferring flavorful but fast-cooking meals.

Now, I get it. We're all busy people, and yeah, this is the age of the 40- or 30- or 20-minute meal. And I can get down with that; I eat a lot of pasta. But when I have the time, I uniformly prefer to make complex, layered dishes, the kinds of foods that have a bunch of steps whose rhythms you can get lost in as your kitchen fills with the aromas of different components and several sauces. Sure, these dishes take a long time, but as an experienced cook, the preparations come easily, and I don't have to think too much about what I'm doing, using those hours to reflect on everything but what's going on in the oven. And when they're done, these types of recipes can be real-showstoppers.

That's certainly what I'd call this lasagna (I also called it "the best thing I've ever made" when I described it to a friend). Tender noodles are stuffed with two fillings distributed between four layers and moistened with generous lashings of creamy béchamel sauce, which absorbs into every nook and cranny of the dish, binding it together with rich dairy goodness. There are several steps to this recipe—roasting the squash, combining it with ricotta, cooking the greens, stirring together the béchamel—but none of them are challenging, I promise. This guy will take you a while, but when you cut into its strata of bacon-laced greens and fluffy, pale orange ricotta cheese, your friends will be stunned. I guarantee it.