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Pumpkin Chicken Lasagna

Typically, when you see pumpkin as an ingredient in a recipe, you think sweet. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin special recipe cookies. But today… I bring you over to the savory side with Pumpkin Chicken Lasagna! This recipe is one of my absolute favorites to make in the fall.  

  There’s quite a back story to how this recipe came to be. In the fall semester of my senior year of college (about 3 years ago… has it really been that long?!), the student life program held a campus-wide Iron Chef competition. Can you say right up my alley? I had to enter. The contest was structured so that we were competing in teams of four – so three of my cross country team mates and I quickly joined together to form a team. And by ‘form a team’, I mean we all wrote our names down on the paper, and I took charge. Pretty typical. Anyways, the contest was a bit different than the Iron Chef TV show. We were only given two secret ingredients, and 24 hours to come up with our dish. I was all sorts of nervous and excited about what the ingredients were going to be. Drumroll please………. chicken and cheese. CHICKEN and CHEESE?! Not exotic. Not difficult to work with. Not even all that interesting in the least. The options were basically limitless. Pasta? Stir fry? Casserole? Stuffed? Grilled? Baked? Roasted? Soup? Salad? Sandwich? Seriously. I knew it would take something different to wow the judging panel.  So, after a bit of research, I came across a pumpkin pasta bake recipe on Taste of Home. I adapted it to include chicken, and of course, cheese. And I knew it would be the perfect dish to serve during the crisp cool days of fall. It was different enough to stand out from the rest, but familiar enough to appeal to all taste buds.     And so… we came, we competed, and we CONQUERED! Yes, our Pumpkin Chicken Lasagna took 1st place out of 15 teams. The best part? The grand prize of a $75 gift card to the Cheesecake Factory. (That was pretty much pure gold to us poor college students.) Now, if prize-winning doesn’t say much (because winning the Iron Chef competition at a teeny tiny college in southern IL says a lot…), I will tell you myself that this recipe is fabulous. Instead of a tomato-based meat sauce, the lasagna is layered with a pumpkin-sage cream sauce, tender chicken, sautéed mushrooms & onions, and three types of cheese – ricotta, mozzarella, & parmesan. Warm, hearty, and comforting, you will definitely enjoy this lasagna. To make the lasagna, start by sauteing a diced onion in a bit of melted butter.     Once the onions have softened a bit, add in some sliced mushrooms.     Saute a few minutes until tender.     Remove onions & mushrooms to a bowl, and add some diced chicken breast. Cook the chicken pieces until they are cooked through, and then add them to the onions & mushrooms mixture.     Now it's time to mix up the sauce. Just three ingredients - pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix!), half & half, and ground sage.       Now, for the assembly.     Start with a layer of the sauce in the bottom of your pan.  

  Next, a layer of noodles. Definitely use the oven-ready lasagna noodles, it saves so much time!  

  Then, a bit more sauce.  

  On top of the sauce, add about half of the chicken-onion-mushroom mixture.  

  Then, the cheese! Dollops of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, and parmesan. (The cheese is my favorite part.)  

  Repeat all the layers once more. Then, top with a final layer of noodles, a bit more sauce, and the last of the cheese. Pop it into the oven for about an hour, and you will have lasagna perfection!  

  A helpful hint - let it cool for about 10 minutes, and it will cut much easier! ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Pumpkin ChickenLasagna

Servings/Yield: 8-10 servings
  • 1 lb. fresh mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • ¾ cup half-and-half
  • 1½ tsp. dried sage
  • dash pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 9-12 oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
Method In a small skillet, melt the butter. Saute the mushrooms, onion, and  tsp. salt in butter until tender; remove from pan. Place chicken in same pan; saute until brown on all sides and cooked through. Combine chicken with mushrooms and onion mixture. To make pumpkin sauce, combine pumpkin with half-and-half. Stir in sage, pepper, and remaining salt. In a greased 9x13-inch pan, spread a thin layer of pumpkin sauce. Top with a layer of noodles. (You might have to break them to make them fit.) Top noodles with another layer of pumpkin sauce. Top with half the mushroom/onion/chicken mixture, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles, sauce, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Cover and bake at 375*F for 45 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer until cheese has melted and browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Source: original recipe