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in the kitchen with: brian malarkey’s lasagna

by Kristina Gill

One of the exciting things about editing this column is the opportunity to work with incredible people.  When Grace and I put our heads together and came up with the idea to do a Top Chef series, we never imagined in a thousand years that we’d have the chance to work one-on-one with the Top Chefs to produce their recipes for the column.  This first series will last the month of July, and starts with Brian Malarkey.  When I gave the column specs to Brian, that we like to offer our readers seasonal and accessible recipes, Brian was very kind and responsive.  He talked me through exactly how the lasagna should be, and here we are! We actually started working on this series in the winter, so Brian offered us a great recipe for Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage and Lemon butter.

I start to see butternut squash at my local farm in a few weeks, but if butternut squash isn’t available just yet where you are or you prefer to wait til peak season to use it, you can substitute any seasonal squash with a similar flesh, and get wonderful results all the same.  This style of easy comfort food fits right in with the food Brian will be serving at his new restaurant, Searsucker, in San Diego which opens this summer.  We’re very very honored to have Brian on the column!  Stay tuned next week for another Top Chef star!  -Kristina

About Brian : As an award-winning Executive Chef, Brian Malarkey’s passion for food and entertaining is the driving force behind his pursuits in both the culinary and entertainment industry. In 2007, he was cast as a contestant on Bravo’s Emmy-nominated series, “Top Chef 3 Miami,” where he advanced to the finale gaining national recognition for his talents, high-energy and captivating charm.

CLICK HERE for more about Brian and the full recipe after the jump!

More about Brian: Brian is a professionally trained, award-winning chef who was surrounded by a family of talented cooks. A native of Bend, Oregon, Brian lived a cowboy lifestyle, growing up on a horse ranch and spending summers on the Oregon coast. He was inspired by the cooking of his grandmother in her beach house kitchen, where she was often joined by her old friend James Beard. After being seduced all of his life by all the fresh seafood and abundant produce that the Oregon country side has to offer, Brian enrolled in Western Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Portland.  He got his start in Los Angeles, at Michael Richard’s Citrus, and from there moved to Minneapolis, Seattle, and San Diego.  In each city, he has opened new locations for The Oceanaire Seafood Room restaurants.  Since opening The Oceanaire in San Diego, it has received more than 60 industry awards, including Brian’s Gold Medallion for Chef of the Year and Best Seafood-Fine Dining (2006-2009), San Diego’s Best Chef (2009), Zagat Top Ten Restaurants (2007), Wine Spectator Award of Excellence (2005-2008), and the DiRoNA Award of Excellence.

Currently Brian hosts a series of weekly episodes on BRAVOTV.com for “Top Chef 6 Las Vegas” called “The Remix” where he puts healthy and fast spins on winning dishes.  He is also working on two cookbooks and writes a weekly blog on BRAVOTV.com and SanDiegoMagazine.com where he dishes about all things culinary.

Brian resides in San Diego with his beautiful wife, Chantelle, their first child Hunter, twins on the way, and their dog Stella.

Butternut Squash Lasagna


1 or 2  Large Butternut squash – Peeled, cored and sliced thin 1/4  inch
10 to 14  Pasta Sheets – Cooked
1 handful  Spinach
6 cloves  Garlic
1 bunch  Italian Parsley
1 stick Butter (114g)
¼ Cup  Flour
3 ½ Cups Whole Milk
3 Cups  Shredded Mozzarella
½ Cup  Parmesan
10 each  Sage Leaves – Sliced Thin
1 each Lemon – Zest
Salt and Pepper and Olive Oil

Make the Lasagna

Pre-heat oven to 375F

You will need a 13x9x2 baking dish (a regular glass one or any type of casserole will do)

Drizzle the sheet tray with olive oil and place the slices of butternut squash on it, season with salt and pepper, repeat another layer until all the butternut is layered.  Cover with foil and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the squash is cooked yet still firm enough to break apart.

While that is working start on your roux:  ½ stick of butter in the pot and melt until almost browned, whisk in the flour and continue to cook for about 30 seconds, slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, Add the garlic and continue to cook at a medium heat until mixture thickens.   Transfer the mixture to the blender and blend in the Spinach/parsley.  Season with salt and Pepper.

Rub the Baking dish with a little butter and begin the layers:  Cream Sauce, pasta, Mozza, Parma, butternut – Repeat.  Make sure the top layer has cheese on top.  Cover with Foil and Bake for 40 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 15 or until the top is crispy golden brown.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving

Serve with Sage/Lemon Brown Butter:  In small sauté pan bring the remaining butter to a light brown color – Very hot and bubbling add Sage, Zest, salt and Pepper.   Spoon over a little on each piece.

Why Brian Chose this Recipe

I chose this recipe because I love the color, the flavor, the texture and the seasonality of it as well as the nutritional value.

This summer promises to be a busy one for Chef Brian.  Brian is making his return to television, hosting a TLC special called “Mega Bites”, which aired in June. The one-hour show paired Brian with a food scientist, an engineer, and hundreds of community volunteers, to help the community of La Cañada Flintridge tackle the creation of the world’s largest Rice Krispies Treat for a fundraiser to benefit the children’s programs at the community center. (Brian’s portrait by Chantelle Marie of Chantelle Photography)

In addition to “Mega Bites,” Brian will open his first restaurant, named Searsucker, with nightlife magnate, James Brennan. Located in the epicenter of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, on the corner of 5th and Market, Searsucker will serve a menu of New American Classic cuisine emphasizing approachable and unpretentious food that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Though the menu does not specifically focus on seafood, the SEA in Searsucker pays homage to their love of the ocean and coastal location. Specialty cocktails made with local and unique ingredients compliment the menu which is also local, sustainable and house-made.

Nationally acclaimed designer Thomas Shoos has created a space that is laid-back, comfortable and worn… yet classic. Not unlike the seersucker, which is a paradox in itself, a smooth and rough material, originally worn by the poor, then adopted by the rich and now accessible to all.

Guests are greeted by the energy of a bustling bar and lounge, exhibition kitchen and chef’s table, where Malarkey plans to give cooking demos and entertain the crowd. Searsucker, will serve lunch and dinner daily and brunch on weekends.

Recipe images by Kristina Gill:  Glass (Marinha Grande); casserole dish (Revol Porcelaine), Serving piece (traditional Khmer silverwork); plate (mud australia); fork (eBay)

Suggested For You


  • Sorry, but neither of these recipes seem appropriate for July. Just reading the recipes makes me sweat. Something seasonally appropriate for 90 degree temperatures would be appreciated. They do sound tasty, please post a reminder to try them this fall. Thanks!

  • The lasagna looks so good…but alas, the second page does not open – the one with the recipe I really want to have now! Thanks.

  • This looks so amazing. I think I might actually try to make it this weekend. (My cooking skills are pretty limited – but this looks so good I think I must try.) I love that it uses butternut squash!
    XO Piper

  • Excellent! One of my favorite chefs from one of my favorite shows on my favorite blog. Good luck with the new restaurant Brian! I’m sure you will be a success.

  • My mouth is watering already. I’ve been looking for a new way to use butternut and I really look forward to trying this out.

    My husband and I will definately be making a trip to San Diego this summer to try Searsucker as well.

  • Agree with Crusty. Too hot.

    We make a similar recipe (from Giada De Laurentiis) for Thanksgiving. It is a good veg. option when serving a large crowd.

  • Hi Crusty and Suz,

    Sorry this isn’t a fit for your palate right now! Perhaps you’d prefer Amy Cotler’s Strawberry Soup, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Spinach dish, Elodie Rambaud’s zucchine tart, or Jill Bliss’s vegetarian sushi.

    I do hope you will try it later or perhaps use the recipe as a starting point to develop your own recipe, maybe leaving off the cheese and the roux, it’s up to you. In the meantime have a look at the other 130 recipes we have in the archive and see if there’s something else in there for you for July!


  • Looks delicious. And a reminder that some parts of the world are in winter at the moment. We will enjoy the recipe. Not all the world lives in the US.

  • this recipe looks incredible. My only question is: How many grams is a stick of butter ? We have butter packets of 100 gr. and 200 gr.
    Thank you

  • I love hot food year round. Just have to eat it in the AC. This looks amazing, and I’m planning on cooking it tonight! I’ve always been a big fan of butternut squash. Particularly love it as a gnocchi.

  • Well this is good room temperature too. But even better when you reheat with a little oil in a frying pan and the outside gets crispy. Lucky for us, we get to eat everything we make on the column!!

  • I have had this Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage and Lemon butter. It is amazing! Also it is a perfect all season dish. I was actually craving this the other day. Honestly it is one of my favorite dishes ever.
    I have had Brian’s Summer Watermelon Salad and is also incredible. Have a look at this: http://chantellephotoblog.com/summer-salad/
    He is making for our 4th of July party tomorrow. Yeah! Seriously delicious.

  • I love hot food year round. If I’m craving a particular casserole or maybe some shepherd’s pie in the middle of summer I just crank up the AC snuggle up on the couch for an evening and enjoy. Will definitely be trying this recipe.

  • All the recipes you post always sound wonderful. My only complaint is printing them. It always takes many sheets of paper. Would it be possible for you to post a printable recipe (without pics) that fits on one page? It would be so helpful and really appreciated. Happy 4th of July to all the wonderful people at DS!

  • I agree with Lauryn… maybe Lasagna filled with squashes works in July if you are in Australia but in sweltering heat? No thanks! Will save this recipe for September, tho!

  • It’s not too hot in the Bay Area right now! We made this a couple nights ago and it is delicious. I will certainly make it again. Yum.

  • I’ts just perfect! Just reading the recipe makes me hungry and photos…Layer of crispy cheese on the top…I’m heading to the market, hopefully I’ll get some squash.

  • I am, in fact, in Australia and elle is totally right, this recipe is perfect for us at the moment! Not everyone lives in the northern hemisphere. It makes a nice change from seeing all the 4th July themed foods. Thanks for this one, it looks amazing!

  • We have one shot each week to post a recipe that pleases as many people as possible, taking into consideration northern and southern hemisphere seasonal availabilities, dietary restrictions and personal preferences of our global readership. It is always very very nice for the authors who have shared their recipes and for those of us who work on putting the column together to hear when a recipe appeals to a reader and gets someone into the kitchen right away!


  • Beth.. I remember those cold San Francisco summers! Brrrrr!

    Kristina, I did not mean to take away from your article and the FREE recipe from a professional cook (wow!)… just that it’s 40C where I live right now (98.6F) so the idea of lasagna or even turning on my oven is a big turn-off.

    It would be great if we could add our location, in addition to our name and website when we leave a comment.

    I’m in Italy, BTW. On the coast of Rome in Anzio.

    For lunch we had Vitello Tonnato and a green salad. Dinner will be spaghetti al pesto with basil gathered from my courtyard. Tomorrow… only caprese salad and prosciutto e melone for lunch – two appetizers is all anyone can eat when they get a sweat from just sitting there.

    Ciao and buon appetito!

  • Hi Elle,

    There is no limitation on what you insert in the name bar, so you can put “Elle in Anzio” for example, or you can include it in the text of your comment as you and many others have done.

    I must admit I find vitello tonnato as caloric as this lasagne, which has as its “worst offender” only the bechamel, and far less per person than would be consumed with a piece of veal with eggs and tuna pureed on top. Otherwise, people eat mozzarella in the summer, and other forms of squash with similar water content. In your part of Italy in fact, the butternut squash season begins in the middle of the summer.

    All the same, I am glad that we were able to please some of our readers!

    All the best

  • I made this in the fall, and I kept meaning to come back and say how delicious it was. I made two, so I could freeze one, and I couldn’t wait to make the second one. Will definitely be making more next year.

  • Just finished a dinner party with this as the main course. It was far better than I’d hoped, and can’t wait to make it again.
    A few pieces of advice after my first try:
    1. One average sized butternut squash will suffice. I spent way too much time and effort breaking down two squash, and ended up only needing about a quarter of what I prepared. I will have no problem using up the leftovers, but the extra time it took would have been useful for other dinner prep.
    2. The lemon sage butter was delicious, but I think it would have been just as good to incorporate the lemon zest and sage into the bechamel and eliminate that last minute step.
    3. Make sure to cook down the cream sauce until it is really thickened, as the blending with spinach and parsley thins it out a bit. This led to me increasing the cooking time, which led to a slightly overcooked bottom layer. I think it could be avoided by pureeing the greens separately and then combining them with the cream, but have not tested this out yet. I also added a big pinch of nutmeg to the mixture, which I find makes any cream sauce taste better.

    Overall an excellent recipe to make over and over again. Perfect to serve with a big salad – light enough for anytime of year, but particularly great for fall.

  • This was amazing! Made it for a dinner party tonight & my guests raved. I also think this dish would be perfect in any season. I made it in the dead of winter & it was creamy & comforting, while the lemon sage sauce really takes it to a whole other level…gives a nice little citrus flavor that would be perfect in summer as well. Honestly, the dish is so fantastic you will want to make it anytime!

  • This dish was great and a wonderful way to welcome fall. A couple of suggestions:
    – I thought that the mozzarella was too cheesy and heavy and would consider adding ricotta to the mix to give it some lightness
    – Adding some shallots with the squash

    I love the idea of adding the sage and lemon to the roux mixture to eliminate the sauce step, even though it’s delicious.

  • Blustering cold spring and I am making this for the family next week in NZ-could you tell me though how many people will this serve-should I invite some friends over-we are a family of 3 and at times I can make the weight and adjustments to cook for 3 but not when I make a new recipe and food waste is a major bug bear of mine-thanks for the beautiful recipe

  • It’s in the oven right now. I’m making it to take to a potluck gathering. For you who are thinking about chopping the parsley and spinach and then adding it to the white sauce…DON’T DO IT! My white sauce is a green sauce! It sure looks funny, but I’m hoping it’s going to taste good. If cooking smells is any indication, it’s going to be fabulous!

  • I am going to try this. I just made butternut squash ravioli with maple cream sauce last week. Made my own homemade pasta and the squash was from my garden. Came out really good. Cant wait to try this. Thanks for sharing.

  • The ingredient list states 1 stick of butter but the instructions say 1/2 a stick for the roux, am I missing something?
    Can’t wait to try.

  • This is an old post but I wanted to come back and post a few tweaks that have helped me out. I’ve made this recipe several times since it was originally posted and it has quickly become a family favorite at holidays and other gatherings.

    This last Sunday, I attempted to make three lasagnas for a dinner party I hosted. We needed to feed 20 people and we’re hoping for leftovers, but I’d say in a large pan (our bigger one was bigger and deeper than your average 9×13 but not by much) fed about 12 generously. We ended up only making 2 lasagnas even though I tripled the ingredients. I admit I’m heavy handed when it comes to cheese, though!

    A couple notes: one, one decent size spaghetti squash is enough for one lasagna, especially if you cut thinner slices. On the other hand, thicker layers mean less layers (and less work). Instead of making the bechamel and transferring it all to a blender, I simply through everything (parsley, garlic, spinach) into the pan with the bechamel and then blended with an immersion blender. Saved a potentially dangerous step AND a few extra dishes. Hooray for that! I also skipped the butter sauce in the end, and threw the sage and lemon zest in with the other herbs and it turned out delicious and slightly healthier I did make sure to brown the roux a bit more than usual to deepen the flavor so I don’t feel like we missed anything by skipping out on the sauce. I also used no-boil lasagna noodles and couldn’t tell the difference at all. I used no extra liquid, either. Lastly, we made these the day before and baked the. Just as guests were arriving and they were perfect. This recipe is a fair amount of work but is SO worth it. We have am entire pan leftover and it tastes even better (and looks GORGEOUS) sliced and reheated the next day.

  • I made this the first time last weekend for a big group (living on the edge) and it was very well received. I let the garlic cook in the roux before adding milk to reduce the raw garlic flavor and tossed the sage and lemon zest in at the same time with the spinach and also used an immersion blender. When serving buffet-style, I couldn’t figure out how to top with the sage butter and this seemed like the best resolution. I also, hanging head in shame, used oven ready pasta sheets without adjusting the recipe and it worked perfectly. Two thumbs up. One good size butternut should be enough. I used a behemoth, sliced thinly, and had plenty to spare although I tripled the roasting time on the squash before I started building the lasagna.

  • Yum! I made this last night with a few alternations.

    -Couldn’t find sage at the store last night, so I skipped it, but I browned the butter with the lemon zest and mixed it in with the finished sauce

    -Added ricotta to the whole thing and it gave a welcome fluffiness

    -Layered some extra fresh spinach in with the squash

    It was a hit! Thanks for the amazing recipe!!

  • I made this today. So good. I was feeling lazy and used no boil lasagna noodles to save some time. I also used dried sage instead of fresh since I do not have a use for a lot of sage. Man, this dish is just so tasty. I bought a large butternut squash and decided to make this lasagna instead of butternut squash soup. So delicious. Next time I will add more cheese as I like a nice cheesy lasagna. Be aware, this recepie makes a lot of food. It is just myself and my husband so I made two 8x8s instead of one 9×13

  • This looks great. A link to a pdf for printing would be most helpful. I made my own printable document by copying and pasting the text and desired photos into a Word document.

  • Thanks for this amazing and rich recipe! I adapted it slightly after reading some of the comments and threw the lemon zest and sage in the sauce and left out the butter topping. I think if I make it again I might throw some caramelized onions in there too.

  • I made the lasagna last night for my visiting family. It was a huge hit. I had to roast the squash for 40 minutes, not the 8-10 minutes listed in the recipe. I let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes and it cut perfectly and held its shape. It was delicious with a green salad and a glass of Pinot Noir. Thank you for sharing!

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