food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

Hello from under the duvet! I know what you are thinking, lazy git/lucky cow. I would too. But before you get all judgmental/jealous I should clarify: this duvet day is not out of choice. Nope. Not surrounded by Heat magazines (which is the creme de la creme of trashy magazines in my humble opinion) and straight-to-DVD, DVDs. No sign of smoked salmon bagels either. You see, after the amazing high of being featured on last week’s homepage (still can’t quite believe it – click ‘earlier’), I have swiftly received my comeuppance. Temperature, sneezing, wheezing, aches in places that shouldn’t ache. Not forgetting the tap dancing in my head. If I were a man I would dub it the flu, but I’m not so it’s just a rubbish chesty thing. My once a year cold, perfectly timed to put me in my place.

What has kept me feeling perkier than I might be otherwise is reading the kind and encouraging comments to the blog. Mostly on the Tamarind and Shiitake Tofu post, but also many of the others. I can’t believe so many of you are raring to give tofu – and me – a go. Like I said a few times in the commenting, I am so grateful for every click through to food to glow. Astounded in fact that of all the zillions of food blogs out there that you found and read (possibly skimmed, I don’t know) my not very razzmatazz effort. So, so humbled. Thank you. Now before I get all sentimental and sappy, and you get bored, onto the recipe bit…

You spell it Lasagna, and I spell it Lasagne. However, if you look at them long enough, they both look wrong…

According to a recent UK YouGov survey for Sainsbury’s supermarket, lasagne came second to shepherd’s pie as top winter comfort food. Unsurprisingly, among 18-35 year-olds polled, lasagne topped the list. And who in their right mind doesn’t love a steaming slab of gooey, cheesy lasagne? Well, although many of us love this stalwart of the Italian restaurant, for the health-conscious it is usually a dish too far. My ‘beef’ (excuse the pun) is mainly due to the stratospheric amounts of saturated fat and sodium in a typical restaurant serving, but the calories are also quite breath-taking. According to, Olive Garden’s Lasagna Classico weighs in at a gut-busting 858 calories. This is without figuring in the soft buttery breadsticks and the dressing-laced salad that are too tempting to ignore. I couldn’t bear to see what the fat content was so you’ll have to look that up yourself.

But not all lasagnes are created equal. You and I both know that the best way to keep lasagne in your life without guilt/new trousers is, of course, to make it yourself. Homemade lasagne can easily be made lower-fat, even those with meat. For starters, slash the oil and choose lean meat (turkey?), draining off the fat after browning it; use lower fat cheese; add in vegetables for bulk and flavour; and try my cauliflower cheese trick with the sauce. Here is some good advice if you want to give your meat lasagne a makeover.

But this is a different proposition altogether: actually setting out to make a healthy lasagne, without compromise. Seasonal butternut squash – steamed to sweet perfection, wilted and nutmeggy spinach, easy homemade marinara, all between whatever pasta sheets you fancy. Doesn’t even have to be sheets of pasta – or pasta, for that matter; I’ve made it with layers of chickpea ‘spaghetti’. What you will notice is the lack of bechamel, that creamy blanket we have come to expect. I’m not a huge fan of bechamel, so it doesn’t feature. If however that’s an exclusion too far, here’s a good-looking olive oil-based sauce that keeps things more traditional. I won’t be offended if you top your lasagne with this.

It’s about time for me to top up my Lemsip and shamble downstairs for more not-working-so-far ginger tea, so here’s the recipe. Let me know if you try it.

By the way, for nutrition information on spinach, here you go, and for tomatoes, here it is. Including the beta-carotene heavy-hitter butternut squash, this dish has an embarrassment of antioxidants (with the latter link, check out #2 of the worst foods!). Lasagne as healthfood. Now that’s a makeover.


Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna – Lower Fat and Luscious

This is one of the top requested ‘special occasion’ recipes at the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh. I think one of the reasons for its popularity is because it does pack a powerful taste punch in comparison to a lot of vegetarian lasagnes – something people going through taste bud-zapping chemotherapy can really appreciate. It takes a bit of time to prepare, but it’s easy, and you can freeze or refrigerate it for healthy, yummy leftovers. I often make a smaller one to eat immediately and freeze another in a foil dish. You will not use all of the delicious homemade sauce so perhaps have the rest as a pasta sauce later in the week with a tin of tuna added, or chuck it in a labelled bag and freeze for another lasagna. If you can’t be bothered/are too tired to make the tomato sauce (although it’s a cinch) use a best quality supermarket or deli sauce, or even a jar of garlic and tomato passata. Serve this lasagna with a sharply dressed salad, or even just some peas from the freezer. And, dare I say it, a slice or two of homemade garlic bread.

1 medium butternut squash (about 700-800g), peeled, deseeded and cubed (save the seeds*) – or the equivalent of frozen cubed butternut squash, about 550-650 g)
1tbsp + one tsp olive oil (divided)
3 leeks, finely sliced (divided) OR 1 and 1/2 lg sweet onions
4 garlic cloves, minced (divided)
1 large carrot, finely minced
1 stalk celery, finely minced
3 tsp dried oregano (divided)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
2 x 400 g tins best quality chopped tomatoes (I like Cirio)
1 tbsp honey (optional)
salt and pepper
400 g spinach, wilted in a little water, drained well (squeezed of as much water as possible) and chopped OR frozen leaf spinach, lightly cooked, squeezed and chopped
50 g pine nuts, toasted until golden in a dry pan
150 g organic cottage cheese (or fat-free ricotta, or half of each)
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (a good pinch)
zest of half lemon
2 tsp powdered vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillion)
1 pack of fresh or dry lasagne sheets (wholemeal if you like)
50 g sharp Cheddar cheese, grated OR 1 ball organic mozzarella, sliced (optional)
a small palmful of cured black olives (optional)
a little grated Parmesan (optional)

First, the sauce: make it by adding 1 tbsp of olive oil to a medium saucepan and heat on low-medium. Add two-thirds of the chopped leeks and half of the garlic to the pan, and soften for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add in the carrots, celery and 2 tsp oregano; sauté gently for a further 10 minutes, until the carrots are softened. Pour in the tomatoes and bring to a fast simmer, then turn it down to a steady simmer, stirring occasionally. If you have the time simmer this sauce for about an hour. Taste the sauce and add a little honey, salt and pepper to balance the flavours, if needed. Allow the sauce to cool a bit before whizzing until smooth with a stick blender.

While the sauce is simmering, steam the cubed butternut squash for 15 minutes, or until quite soft. Mash the squash roughly and set aside. Save some of the steaming water too.

Next, gently sauté the remaining leeks in a tsp of olive oil with the garlic and thyme until softened. Mix the cooked leeks into the mashed squash. Stir in a splash of the saved water to make a loose ‘sauce’.

Onto the spinach filling. Now, you have a choice with the cottage cheese. I whiz it with my hand blender but you can leave it ‘curdy’. Kids eating this may object to the latter so I recommend whizzing or using ricotta. Combine the chopped spinach, cottage cheese/ricotta, lemon zest, nutmeg, vegetable stock powder and toasted pine nuts in a medium bowl and set aside. Almost oven time!

For assembling, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in a 30cm x 20 cm pan that is at least 7 cm deep, then add a layer of pasta sheets. Spread the butternut squash mix over this layer, before adding another pasta layer. Dot the spinach mixture over the pasta, spreading to cover. Add another layer of pasta sheets and pour over enough tomato sauce to completely cover the top. Sprinkle on the grated cheese or lay on sliced mozzarella, and top with olives, if using.

Cover the dish lightly with foil (spray the foil with oil spray if the cheese might touch the foil) before baking at 180C/350F for about 30 minutes. Uncover the lasagne and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the sides are bubbling and the cheese is starting to brown. Allow to stand for ten minutes before cutting.

*Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Rub the seeds away from any orange membrane and place in a small roasting dish with a pinch of paprika or black pepper. Roast in the oven for the last ten minutes of the lasagne’s cooking time, or until a few seeds pop. Cool the seeds for a couple of minutes and then use as a garnish on your side salad. Delicious bonus ingredient.

Make it vegan: replace the cottage cheese with organic silken/soft tofu and, of course, no cheese on top.

More calories: use more oil for the sauce and sautéed leeks – not more than 2 tablespoons total for each. Perhaps instead of steaming them toss the butternut squash cubes in some plain olive oil or rapeseed oil and roast– about 25 minutes at 180C. This makes the squash sweeter, too.

Soft food diet: Take out the pine nuts, or grind them finely (they have good fats in them) and mix in with the spinach.

Serves 8

53 thoughts on “Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne – Low-fat and Luscious

  1. So excited to try this! Love spinach, butternut squash and lasagne so I will be trundling off to the supermarket at some point this week! Boyfriend is an ardent meat eater but this might help persuade him! Hope you feel better soon, lemon and ginger a tea with a spot of honey works a treat (esp. Twinings)! So glad discovered this blog, looking forward to working through the backlog of recipes! x

    1. Bless you Becky – for your good advice and the fact that you might make this. I think your boyfriend might like this. Promise him a steak next time though!

  2. Conner says:

    Looks fab!! The local vegetable farmer where we buy our produce just gave me 10 (slightly bruised but otherwise fine) butternuts. After using up the first two (one roasted, one as soup) I was running out of ideas. Can’t wait to transform the next two squashes into this delicious reipe!

    1. Lovely to hear from you Conner! Ten b’nut squashes – wow! I’d be hard pressed to be inventive with all of those staring up at me ;P Glad I might be of some use. Thanks so, so much for commenting. Let me know how it goes down with ‘Paleo Man’

  3. ChileQueen says:

    Aaaaaawww Kellie……… poor you, and…… poor me! I’ve had “whatever it is” too all of last week, it went away’ish Friday, came back Sat and still have it this week!
    I can attest to this wonderful dish as I’ve had it @maggies – and it’s
    de-li-c-i-ou-sis!!! Reading the recipe again makes me want to make it RIGHT NOW but I’ll have to wait till I’m on my feet again!
    KELLIE get well soon
    Love ChileQueen

    1. Aaaaawwww back at you. Rubbish isn’t it? Let’s just call it ‘flu and be done with it. Keep your feet up and eat lightly- yhis would be too much in your delicate state. To be honest, I’m surviving on peters yard crisp bread and boiled eggs. I think the leftovers of this lasagne will be demolished before I’m fit to eat it! Hope you are better soon.

      1. ChileQueen says:

        Thanks Kellie, I’ve not got ‘flu, just a head cold but gets really bad with my ‘special’ head 😉 . I’ve fancied something *REALLY* tasty for the last week so I made chile con carne tonight and roasted and ground chiles’ to a neat powder with my brilliant Vitamix machine. The smell is just amazing. Will bring some into Maggie’s next time I am in for you. You can have fun guessing which chiles’ I used 🙂
        They say feed a cold and starve a fever….. so I fed the cold…….
        Get better soon

  4. inquebiss says:

    This inspires me to make lasagna (or lasagne XD). It would be a perfect way to use up some of the home made ricotta I have.

    Oh, and what’s interesting about the nutrition facts on Olive Garden’s lasagna, is that it’s still one of the lowest calorie entrees on their menu!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Goodness,is it really? Scary, scary food fact. And homemade ricotta, that sounds delicious. Much better than boring old cottage cheese. Wish I had some…

  5. bookindian says:

    . . . just need some pasta and spinach, so I’m off to the market!! . . . ah the price of fame . . . a cold?

    1. I think I am promoting status to flu-sufferer as temp won’t go down. Worth the hacking and soreness though. *Meeting* some great people, like yourself. Thanks for commenting.

  6. JaneyP says:

    I’m very excited about this recipe! Looking forward to trying it for myself!

  7. Kellie, hope you get well soon. There is nothing worse than being sick… I get so grumpy these days when I’m bedridden. This lasagne looks and sounds so nourishing. You put so much information into each post, thanks so much!

  8. Dad Fitzpatrick says:

    You poor wee lamb! You need some warm Florida sunshine. Hope it stays warm when you get here (high 70s to low 80s F.) See you soon.

    1. Oh Poppy. What are you like with your Dad Fitzpatrick? See you soon. Bikini packed so you better have the weather for it. Ha ha

  9. This is so my kind of dish. I love it and all the ingredients are wonderful. May have to try this version instead of my usual one and my friends & family would love me for it I’m sure!

  10. Abel says:

    oh my god this looks amazing! thanks for sharing.

  11. Oooh this looks delicious. Love the squash/spinach combo!

  12. says:

    Looks very interesting. Excited to try this.

  13. sandhyasun says:

    Looks very tasty! Never thought to use pine nuts in lasagna before. Looking forward to trying it out.

  14. Think i might give this a go, I have a couple of meat eaters in my wee family but i think this might cut the mustard 🙂
    P.S Get well soon

    1. Thanks Niki. Feeling better today & was back at the hob cooking for Maggies – trying not to breathe around the food! Hope you give the lasagne a go.

  15. Does WordPress offer food delivery services? You could be in a HUGE business, you know!! 😉 I have to go and cook now. I am thinking – “throw-it-all-together-soup” with fresh buffalo mozerella +” gluten free breaded zucchini” and maybe some “spicy french toast” for the kids.

    1. Sounds delish, but a lot of cooking! Tx for ‘ delivery’ comment. Sweetly, many of my nutrition class attendees jokingly ask for same. Or me to live with them. Sadly they would probs run screaming for McD’s due to tofu overload 😀

  16. adela120 says:

    It is forecasted to be very frigid in Barcelona this weekend and this sounds like the perfect comfort food to keep me warm…and best of all – I can actually find all these ingredients here! Thanks for posting!

    1. Thanks for commenting Adela. Yes, I think we will all be blanketed under Siberian chill for awhile. I’ve got a few more healthy comfort foods coming up soon. I think they’ll be just as accessible.

      1. adela120 says:

        Great! I made this dish this weekend and it is delicious! Looking forward to more recipes 🙂

      2. Fantastic Adela! I love feedback on the recipes & I’m always pleased when they work for folk other than me. Thanks so much for commenting. Let me know what else you try!

  17. Annie says:

    Kellie – this grotty bug must have invaded all of Scotland since I too have been suffering and even went back to bed on Monday (a once a decade happening) but I too am reluctant to call it flu because although there is a temperature aches and general brain fug I was still keen to do some indoorsy things. So yesterday I decided that I would make this lasagne as it sounded so freaky it must be good and you know that we make anything with butternut squash because we love the seeds… The whole process was very interesting and John and I sat down to lasagne last night. The sad thing is that my taste buds are completely gone so I couldn’t taste a thing! John meanwhile thought it was amazing – kept on saying if he had that in a restaurant he’d be thrilled and then enthused about its subtle and interesting flavours and wonderful lightness…. He has pinched some leftovers for lunch today so it must be good!! Hope you are on the mend soon and thank you so much for this inspiring recipe! I have saved a portion for the freezer in the hope that I can appreciate it when my tastebuds have returned…

    1. So sorry you have been felled as well. I am fine today, crediting yesterday’s practically miraculous recovery on my beetroot zinger & scary turmeric tea (very Ayurvedic, me. Ha ha). Thrilled that you rate the strange lasagne. JK has written not one but two comments. My gold star readers (& faraway friends).

  18. Jk says:

    What she said is true – a sensationally flavoursome but light lasagne – great work Kellie

  19. JK says:

    I am just having the leftovers now – realtime as I type nom nom nom – truly fabulous- jk

    1. Great to hear from you!! I can always count on you & Annie to test my recipes out. So glad you are enjoying it for leftovers now. Did you tweak it at all? No bechamel is quite a leap for kids so wouldn’t blame you for going for the creamy blanket:D

      1. Annie says:

        No tweaks – was not feeling inspired yesterday – just needed to follow orders! used ricotta rather than the cottage cheese. Bechamel – who needs it? Actually had best ever lasagne from a local deli in Italy this year which was also light and delicious – quite thin home-made lasagne sheets almost folded over themselves (like ribbons?) with a full flavoured ragu (much more tomato than meat), no bechamel and topped with mozzarella _ sooo good…

  20. Faith says:

    Oh no, sorry to hear you’re sick, Kellie — hope you’re feeling better soon! (A HUGE congrats on your wordpress feature though, that is so exciting!) The lasagne looks amazing. It’s normally something I avoid, mostly because of how heavy it is and how lethargic it makes me feel after I eat it — not this version though!

    1. Thanks Faith. A few comments up, JK claims it is ‘light’ so hopefully this will appeal where cheesy, bechamely versions don’t.

  21. Karen says:

    A wonderful recipe and so photogenic too! I adore lasagne in all forms, but my favourite has to be spinach and ricotta cheese with pine nuts. My favourite comfort food recipes are the usual suspects, Cottage Pie, Fish Pie and Roast Chicken.I am not averse to making cottage pie with lentils and omitting the meat, and that is a lovely way to lighten it up a bit.

    1. We think along the same lines. My lasagne is as you like it (including pine nuts, which many think is odd), and will be doing shepherdess pie v soon! First I need to post cookbook review lentilly dish. It looks great! Making it this weekend. Btw, not been receiving your blog email although WordPress says it is subscribed. Anyone else having such issues?

  22. Duoimagery says:

    This looks so delicious it’s making me drool! 🙂

  23. Deb says:

    Congratulations on WordPress! I always enjoy your posts, especially your lovely musings intertwined with healthy and thoughtful recipes. This post with lasagne is an exceptional example, great favor and nutrition without the traditional overload of meat and cheese. Thanks so much for our support of my blog, your affirmation means a lot to me. Hope you are feeling better!

    1. Aw thanks Deb. It is nice to know that I’m not *always* talking to myself 😀 Thanks for your support too. Love how the Internet can bring so many people together in a common cause. So glad to have found you.

  24. Wendy says:

    Wow. This looks and sounds utterly delicious! Altering my shopping list right now. Happy to discover another Scottish food blogger too!

  25. Yummy! I would have to find ways to add calories to this though. My little ones are off the chart on the light side so calories are a very good thing for them. Add in some extra olive oil somewhere maybe, a little more cheese, and whole milk ricotta.

    1. By all means whack in the calories! At the bottom of the recipe I recommend roasting the squash in olive oil & using more olive oil in sautéing process. And of course full-fat ricotta is perfect. Maybe even go half ricotta & half marscapone for mega calorie boost. Hope your children enjoy it, Emilia.

  26. Jill says:

    Looking forward to making this dish, and eating it! Kellie when you freeze in the foil tray do you do it before cooked or do you par cook first?

    1. Hi Jill. I freeze uncooked lasagne & then bake it from frozen, with foil on, at 160C for about an hour, taking off the foil for the last 20 minutes, usually up at 180C. I usually wait til cooking it to add cheese on top at the last 20 minutes. If from cooked I would probably defrost first & reheat with foil for half hour, or until hot through. Let me know if you make it!

  27. Sally says:

    You’ve just given me a light bulb moment. I’m not thinking about nuts enough when making our veggie dishes. Pine kernals are an inspired addition. Gorgeous.

  28. Shannon says:

    Okay, so this post was a REALLY long time ago. You know how I know? Only twenty-two people liked it, versus the football stadium populous you find now. Seriously, we’ve all known you were the queen of food blogs even way back then (I don’t think I found you until later than year).

    Now that I have that off my chest, this lasagna has butternut in it. Gaw! I fear that the rather large squash I just procured from the farm for your other breaded dressing recipe (to make concurrently with my squash soup) may get re-purposed for this one instead. I’m so conflicted.

    1. A large squash would easily serve both purposes. Unless the lasagne was really, really big! And gosh, blushing slightly at the kind accolade. Undeserved, but I’ll take it! Thank you 🙂

  29. LeishaMulvey says:

    Looks epic, can’t wait to try making my own now that Sainsburys stock butternut squash lasagne sheets !

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