A Gluten-Free & Vegetarian Squash Lasagna Recipe, With A Tender Twist
With so many seasonal squash varieties to pick from, the beauty of this uniquely versatile fruit (yes, fruit) is indisputable. Squash, or Cucurbita, is the perfect example of a prolific garden gift—packed with various flavors, textures, colors, and nutritional profiles, depending on the species.
One of my favorite go-to squash varieties is tender squash, or ayote tierno (Cucurbita moschata) in Spanish. Widely prevalent throughout Central and South America, this sweeter, hard-shelled squash has a smooth but firm texture that holds up in coconut-based stews, veggie soups, tropical-inspired desserts, and beyond. The following plant-based, gluten-free squash lasaña recipe is inspired by the version my mother made me as a child and a bow to squash's brilliant adaptability.
But first, a few cooking tips:
- You can substitute ayote tierno with any winter squash of your choice (hello, butternut)/
- Although fresh herbs are wonderful for elevating the squash's sweet kick, you can always use dried herbs instead.
- Make this easy-to-assemble lasagna vegan or dairy-free by swapping the cheese for vegan mozzarella instead.
- For a veggie fete, layer in other vegetables such as baby spinach, kale, corn, roasted peppers, chopped cremini mushrooms, or caramelized onions, to name a few.
Astrid's Tender Squash Lasaña
- 1 tender squash or ayote tierno, seeds removed and sliced into paper-thin slices (use a mandolin!)
- 5 to 6 large, ripe, and firm tomatoes
- 1 large white onion
- 2 sweet peppers (1 red and one green or yellow)
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste diluted in 0.75 cups of water
- Fresh oregano leaves
- Fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese or more
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F, and grease a rectangular baking dish with olive oil (I also like to use ghee).
- Peel your tomatoes by making a cross with a knife on both the crown and base and immerse for a few minutes in boiling water.
- Once skinned, cut the tomatoes into small cubes.
- Using a food processor, chop the onions and sweet peppers uniformly.
- In a saucepan, add the olive oil and cook the onion and sweet pepper blend over medium heat until translucent. Add minced garlic and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, and oregano, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until a light sauce forms—season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Cut the squash in 2 to 4 equal parts, scoop out the seeds, then slice thinly.
- To assemble, spread 2 tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of your lasaña dish. Top with one layer of sliced squash, and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat this three-part step until finished with the sauce.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Remove foil, add a final layer of cheese, and broil for another 8 to 10 minutes.
- Serve hot, garnish with fresh herbs like basil and parsley (optional), and enjoy!
Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A, is a journalist, IIN graduate integrative health coach, E-RYT 500 lead yoga teacher, and 500-Hour certified Pilates instructor from San José, Costa Rica. She received her master's degree in communication and journalism from The University of New Mexico, emphasizing well-being, sustainable fashion, health communication research, and graduating Summa Cum Laude. A former professional dancer, she's earned multiple academic and accredited certifications in performance design, positive psychology, doula training, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, mindfulness, innovation leadership, and integrative health. Her work has appeared at top consulting brands and organizations across Latin American and the US, including Byrdie and Albuquerque The Magazine. She currently lives between Costa Rica and New Mexico.