Cast Iron

Kale and Italian Sausage Lasagna with Pumpkin Béchamel

October 13, 2015
19 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

This autumn lasagna was inspired at the Portland Farmer's Market amid the baskets of pumpkins and squash and the piles of kale. Since the air is cooler, I naturally gravitate towards rich food, and this certainly is that. Layers of kale, Italian sausage, sugar-pie pumpkin béchamel, herbed-ricotta, and fresh mozzarella marry perfectly between lasagna noodles. The béchamel base is of the one-and-only Julia Child (from 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking') with some pureed cooked pumpkin and nutmeg added for depth. —Mary Catherine Tee

What You'll Need
  • Pumpkin Béchamel
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups hot milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin or winter squash
  • For the lasagna
  • 15 lasagna noodles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • 8 cups kale
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh mozzarella (shredded or sliced)
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded parmesan
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom 2 1/2-quart saucepan, then blend in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a smooth, somewhat loose paste. Stir over medium heat until the butter and flour foam together for 2 minutes without coloring more than a buttery yellow. Remove from heat.
  3. When the bubbling stops, pour in the hot milk at once, whisking vigorously to blend thoroughly. Then whisk rather slowly over moderately high heat, scraping along the bottom and sides of the pan, until the sauce comes to a simmer; simmer 2 to 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.
  4. Stir in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and pumpkin. Simmer until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Bring pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain pasta. The pasta will be slightly cooked and will finish cooking in the oven.
  6. In a cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook through, until all the pink is gone, stirring occasionally. After sausage has cooked, drain all but 2 Tbsp. fat. Add kale and garlic stirring to coat kale with oil/fat. Cook until wilted. Add pepper and remove from heat.
  7. Mix ricotta, eggs, and sage in a bowl. Set aside.
  8. To assemble the lasagna: add 1 cup of béchamel to the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Cover bottom by layering 4-5 lasagna noodles lengthwise.
  9. Spread 1/2 the ricotta mixture over noodles. Add 1/2 of kale-sausage mixture on top of the ricotta. Cover with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Pour 1 cup béchamel over the mozzarella.
  10. Add another layer of noodles, remaining ricotta, kale-sausage mixture, and mozzarella. Top with last layer of noodles. Pour remaining béchamel over the top layer of noodles. Sprinkle with parmesan over top.
  11. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Franca
  • Josie Shiff
    Josie Shiff
  • strozyk
  • Pumpkiness
  • Mary Catherine Tee
    Mary Catherine Tee
I’m an old soul. My favorite Saturday morning activity is watching birds on the feeder while drinking strong, black coffee out of my favorite hand-thrown mug. My favorite place to kill time is in antique stores. The less organized the better. I like full-bodied red wines and bitter IPAs. I live for feeling the warmth of sunshine and hearing the stillness of freshly fallen snow. I can thank my stint in Alaska for that. I have salt water in my veins, having grown up in Eastern NC, and (shhh…don’t tell any of my Mainer friends this about me) I prefer blue crab over lobster.

40 Reviews

Jc December 24, 2022
I made this for the second time today. What went well - I used half ground turkey and half hot Italian sausage. I added a cup or so of marinara to the meat mixture and chard in place of kale.

What didn’t work so well. I didn’t really cook the chard so some people thought the stem part too crunchy. I think I should use a little less of the bechamel next time. It’s good, but the dish was very rich and saucier than necessary.

Still, delicious and I will make again.

(Even my veggie wary audience likes it)
Franca December 13, 2022
Delicious. I used spinach, that's what I had on hand.
Ro R. October 12, 2022
Not as wow as other reviews would indicate, though I was not able to get the quality of sausage I would have preferred. The bechamel was a little more blah than blam. Needed a stronger tasting squash perhaps.
Mammatjo August 16, 2021
I made this last Fall when having some well food-experienced guests over for dinner. Although they have eaten in many a fine restaurant around the world ... they were savoring every comforting bite while at my table. This will be a staple in my favorite recipe log for both company and family. Loved it.
Scott N. October 31, 2020
I made this using Butternut Squash in the place of pumpkin. Turned out to be about the best lasagna I've ever made. Will definitely make again.
Josie S. October 25, 2020
I made this for dinner on Friday night. Once I was putting it together, I realized I didn't have any regular milk, only almond milk. So I improvised and mixed a small container of mascarpone cheese and some heavy cream and mixed it into the butternut squash and it was amazing!
Jacqueline H. October 25, 2020
Please try this recipe! It was amazing. I made the recipe as written. Made my own butternut squash purée (don’t forget to roast the seeds!), and shredded the mozzarella for more even distribution. No extra salt, the sausage has plenty. Enjoy!
susankay October 9, 2020
If I start with fresh squash for the béchamel , whats the best way to cook it ?
trvlnsandy October 9, 2020
I might microwave something like a butternut for this -- slice in half lengthwise and remove seeds, face down in a dish you can cover (Corning Ware style?) with a little (like a couple of Tbsp) and nuke it til soft. Scoop out and smoosh. I'm baking a pumpkin -- 275F for about 1.5 hours -- cut in half. So another method. Will scoop out and puree. How would you normally cook the squash?
don February 7, 2020
I used some roasted butternut squash instead of the canned pumpkin and no-boil noodles and it was delicious. Would definitely make this again for a crowd.
strozyk October 20, 2019
Super tasty, but the sage was a bit overpowering to me. Not to my husband. I upped the salt and regret nothing. Next time I'm going to reduce the sage by a third, add some fresh thyme, and use hot Aleppo. But overall, YUM. For the celiacs, sweet rice flour worked great for the bechamel.
Mary H. September 27, 2020
Thanks for the idea of using sweet rice flour. I tend to avoid béchamels for my Celiac family because of the starchy flavor, but I will definitely try it.
Toni M. October 10, 2019
I made this tonight, and it was delicious. I did add a little extra kale and salt, but otherwise followed the directions as laid out.
Aimer December 15, 2017
Made it tonight... Fantastic. Made it pretty much as listed but used a little white wine in the sausage and kale mix then let it cook off.
Alyssa December 4, 2017
Made this for dinner yesterday and followed all the directions. It was not difficult to make (though a bit time-consuming, as most lasagnas are), and the end result was delicious! The pumpkin flavor is very subtle, and the kale helps to cut through all the richness. Thanks for a very tasty recipe! Will definitely make again.
Penny October 29, 2017
This recipe was easy, and full of flavor. I love it!
Megan G. October 23, 2017
Has anyone made this in advance? I'd love to make it the day before serving (make and assemble Friday afternoon/bake it Saturday afternoon.)
Mary C. November 5, 2017
Megan, hello! I just made this recipe in advance of a dinner party and I assembled the lasagna through step 10, ending with the last layer of noodles and put the lasagna and the remaining bêchamel, each covered, in the fridge. On dinner day, I took the lasagna out of the fridge about an hour before I baked it and worked on the béchamel. It had separated a bit, so I heated it over medium heat, whisked in a little more milk, and it eventually reconstituted. I poured it over the top, sprinkled with the parm, and baked as described above. It turned out great!
MarieNoel September 20, 2017
All I can say is wow! This lasagna is absolutely wonderful! This was the best lasagna I've ever made/had. It puffed up and crisped beautifully in the oven. The pumpkin béchamel (which doesn't have an overwhelming pumpkin flavor. It has a light pumpkiness to it :) ) ricotta and mozzarella melt all together and is delicious! I used half spicy and half maple sausage which was perfect. I added fresh rosemary to the ricotta instead of sage. Put the fresh sage in the bechamel instead. Beforehand, I crisped up some wild mushrooms in butter. I scattered them on top and sprinkled Parmesan over that. This was delicious. I cannot give this dish enough compliments. Perfect fall dish! Can very easily make vegan, vegetarian, kosher etc. Thank you so much Mary!
Teddi December 5, 2016
Made it this weekend and it was absolutely delightful. My brother is not much of a fan of pumpkin, but found it wonderfully tasty. I only had a pound of sweet Italian sausage and 1 8oz ball of fresh mozzarella, but everything still turned out great. Only needed 12 lasagna noodles (I cooked mine in an oval dish). Next time I would add more salt, though. I found it to be a bit lacking in that department (but that could have been due to the fact that I didn't have enough mozz/meat).
Rich November 17, 2016
Hi, if I omit the sausage, how much more kale should I add? Thanks
trvlnsandy November 18, 2016
just a thought - maybe add white beans instead?
Mary C. December 1, 2016
I like your thinking, trvlnsandy! Or perhaps try between 2ish cups of diced (slightly) roasted winter squash. I haven't tried it but I imagine if you baked the diced pumpkin (tossed in oil with a little salt) for 20-30 minutes, it would be firm enough to hold up to the 50 minute lasagna bake. If you don't want to go to the hassle, increase the kale by 1/2. If you try any of these options, please let me know how it turns out!
Eric R. November 16, 2016
I made this for a dinner party recently. The only change was that I used spinach in place of the kale (not a huge fan of kale). It turned out beautifully and all my guests asked me for the recipe! This will be added to my favorite recipe list for sure!
Mary C. November 16, 2016
I'm thrilled to hear your guests enjoyed this recipe and equally as thrilled to hear it will make it to your favorites list! It's good to hear spinach worked well in it. I'll have to try it because frankly, sometimes I'm not in the mood for kale myself. Thanks for the tip!
Pumpkiness October 29, 2016
I had some store-bought pumpkin pasta sauce in the cupboard, so I used it along with the no boil noodles. I'm certain it is better with the homemade bechamel, but it's hard to imagine. My husband and I both loved it!