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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)

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  • 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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