6 Ways to Use Leftover Buttermilk (and Lasagna with Buttermilk Béchamel)

So, you bought a container of buttermilk for a cake or muffin recipe. You’re at most a cup down and not sure what to do with the rest. Be proactive – don’t let that buttermilk go to waste in the back of your fridge! If it’s not an ingredient you commonly incorporate into your cooking, now is a great time to experiment with all the ways you can use its delightful tang to your advantage. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Double or triple your recipe. Make extra cake, cupcakes, or muffins and freeze them for later. You’ll have microwavable breakfasts at the ready or an easy dessert for last-minute company.

Make a sauce or dressing. This buttermilk Mornay from Local Milk looks amazing – or try your hand at homemade buttermilk ranch dressing.

Fry something. Buttermilk fried chicken or onion rings – yum! You could even dip those onion rings in your homemade ranch dressing.

Incorporate it into breakfast. Buttermilk adds a wonderful hominess to breakfast foods. The Grand Marnier and orange zest in Martha Stewart’s buttermilk French toast add a special touch, and buttermilk pancakes are always a hit in our house. Or try buttermilk scones or biscuits.

Get creative. Could your morning smoothie use a change of pace? Does that soup need a bit of zingy creaminess? Think about anywhere you would normally use milk and ask yourself if swapping it for buttermilk would be a tantalizing twist!

Make lasagna. The lasagna recipe below uses two cups of buttermilk in its béchamel and feeds a family deliciously. The spices in the filling are a wonderful complement to the tang of the buttermilk, but if you’d rather leave them out, it will still be wonderful. For a crowd or for leftovers to freeze, double the recipe (using up four cups of your leftover buttermilk!) and use a large baking dish.

Lasagna with Buttermilk Béchamel

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
1 small butternut squash (about two lbs.), peeled and cut into ½-inch slices
1 tsp. curry powder
1 small onion (or ½ large onion), diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. garam masala
1 bay leaf
1 14.5-ounce can tomatoes
1 bunch Swiss chard (or spinach), de-stemmed, roughly chopped, and washed
¼ c. (4 tbsp. or ½ stick) butter
¼ c. all-purpose flour
2 c. buttermilk
1 c. shredded parmesan
Olive oil, salt, pepper

1. Make the pasta. Add the flour to a medium bowl. Create a well in the flour and add the egg and yolk. Whisk the egg with a fork and begin incorporating the flour. Once the mixture becomes too thick to fork-whisk, use your hands to bring the dough together. The dough should only be ever-so-slightly tacky, so add flour if it is too wet, or a drizzle of oil if too dry. Knead for a couple minutes, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

2. Roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the butternut squash slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a big pinch of salt and the curry powder. Toss to coat the squash evenly. Roast until tender and just starting to darken up on the edges, about 30 minutes, flipping the slices about halfway through.

3. Make the tomato sauce. Coat the bottom of a large saucepan over medium-high heat with olive oil. Once hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic, garam masala, bay leaf, and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and cook another couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the flavors marry, about fifteen minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

4. Cook the chard. Put a large saucepan over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chard and a large pinch each of salt and pepper and sauté chard until bright green and tender, about five minutes.

5. Roll out the pasta. Divide the pasta dough into three equal pieces, as there will be three layers of pasta in the lasagna. Roll each piece of dough into a sheet sized to fit an 8″x8″ baking dish. My pasta maker rolls sheets about 4 inches wide, so I roll the dough to about 16 inches and cut it in half, using the third-to-last setting. Follow your pasta roller’s instructions for effectively rolling the dough.

6. Make the béchamel. In a large saucepan (yes, this recipe calls for a large saucepan in three steps, which means I have to wash my one large saucepan three times), melt the butter over medium heat. Once butter is melted, whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, but so long that the mixture starts to turn golden. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in the buttermilk. Continue whisking and cook until the béchamel thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 5-10 minutes. The mixture will thicken a bit more once you remove it from the heat.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Assemble the lasagna in an 8″x8″ baking dish. Start with a layer of pasta, spread with half the tomato sauce, layer on half the squash slices, then add half the chard and a third of the béchamel, then sprinkle with ¼ cup of parmesan. Add another layer of pasta, the rest of the tomato sauce, squash, and chard, another third of the béchamel, and ½ cup of parmesan. Add the final layer of pasta, the last third of the béchamel, and the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan.

8. Bake the lasagna for about 40 minutes to cook the pasta and bring the flavors together. If the top layer of cheese does not brown up in spots during the initial bake, put the lasagna under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is crispy and golden. Cool at least ten minutes before serving; otherwise the lasagna will be a bit runny on the plate (I just couldn’t wait!).


Elizabeth’s Wine Pairing Suggestion:

Pinot Blanc Spater Veit 2010
Soft fleshy pear and peach notes are ideal to mingle with the heavy cream, squash and exotic spice notes on this Lasagna. Crisp acidity cuts through rich sauces and merge well with the tartness of tomatoes.

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