Pumpkin Lasagne {and the virtues of home-made tomato sauce}

Pumpkin lasagna always goes down a treat at big family dinners. Here's how I'm making ours tonight. 

Sauce: Making my own tomato sauce is a bit of a revelation. Have you read the ingredients on the store-bought stuff lately? It's packed with sugar and preservatives. I just always assumed that pasta sauce was like curry - sure, I could spend ages trying to make it myself, but I'll never make saag paneer with garlic naan that tastes anything like as good as they do at Sitar. So I send Mr. Spring out for our takeaway and don't give it a second thought. But it turns out that pasta sauce is not like that. It's quick and easy to make, tastes way better than jarred, and is healthier and cheaper to boot. To see for yourself, finely dice one large onion and a few cloves of garlic and sauté in olive oil with a pinch of salt on a medium-low heat until soft and translucent. Add a large can of chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp dried basil and about a cup of water. Turn heat up to medium and bring to a simmer while you prepare the rest of the lasagne.

Filling: While the garlic and onions are cooking down, peel and chop 1 butternut squash or a small culinary pumpkin. Put the pieces in a glass bowl with a bit of water and microwave for 15 - 20 min, until the pumpkin is soft.* While the pumpkin is cooking the tomato sauce should be bubbling along. Now rinse, dry, and chop one bag or large bunch of spinach and toss in a large mixing bowl. Add a tub of low fat ricotta and the soft pumpkin when it comes out of the microwave. Mash together until smooth and creamy.

Assembly: Turn off the heat on the sauce and spoon in enough to cover the base of a large casserole dish generously. Lay down a layer of lasagne sheets that do not require pre-cooking. Spread half the pumpkin filling, place another layer of pasta sheets, and spread the rest of the filling. Add a layer of sauce and top with grated mozzarella or parmesan cheese. Bake at 200C for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.

*I usually reserve 1 1/2 cups of cooked pumpkin for dessert. After I prepare the lasagne, I throw the ingredients for a pumpkin pie filling into the food processor and pour the liquid equally into 4 ramekins. Bake them along with the lasagne and either serve them as hot pumpkin soufflés after the meal, or let them cool and serve them as a set pumpkin custard the next day. Either way, topped with a bit of cream, they're heavenly (and a great gluten-free dessert option any time!)