Oh, my friends. This dish is wonderful. It’s like fall in my house (even though it’s only July). I received a butternut squash in my box this week and knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. Make the Winter Squash Lasagna from Deborah Madison’s book Vegetarian Suppers. I had a bag of whole wheat pasta hanging out in my pantry so I decided to try a baked pasta instead of the lasagna and this is what resulted.
In the book, Madison serves the lasagna on a bed of garlicky kale, so I incorporated the kale and extra garlic into the baked pasta. The end result is very good, the buttery textured squash melts in your mouth and the sweetness from the squash evens out the bite of the kale. The creamy sauce brings with just that little “Hmm, what is that?” (As Rachel Ray would say… or, if you’re feeling fancy, it has that Je ne sais quoi.) the whole thing together. I will also tell you that this is quite garlicky! I happen to love garlic, but if you’re not such a big fan you can halve the amount in the recipe below.
My one qualm with this dish is that I would have liked more sauce. I baked it without covering it and I think that contributed to the dryness I had, so next time I will either make some more sauce (by adding 1 c. of broth & an extra tbsp of butter and flour to the sauce), and/or bake it covered (as I’ve instructed below) until the end when I’ll add the topping and broil until brown and bubbly.
This dish is a bit indulgent at about 28% of your daily fat intake. Despite the high fat content, it’s only about 550 calories per serving (this makes 6 generous servings). This is where the balance in your diet comes that I mentioned previously. Almost 1/3 of your daily fat intake isn’t so bad, when you look at having three main meals per day. I ate a low fat lunch and a low fat afternoon snack before this dinner, which means that my overall intake for the day is within limits. You could also serve this with a side salad and eat a smaller portion. If you’re intent on cutting some of the fat, however, you can use skim milk in the sauce, and reduced fat mozzarella in the topping. You could also leave out the walnuts, but I wouldn’t recommend that because they work beautifully with the rest of the flavors in the dish.
One last thing… this dish is a bit involved to make, so you may want to save it for a weekend supper. I’ve described how I made the dish in the directions, I cooked several elements simultaneously. If that seems overly complicated for you, don’t worry! Work on one thing at a time. It will take a little longer, but you’ll get the same result. Just remember it’s worth it, and you get lots of leftovers to take with you to work the next day!
Creamy Butternut Squash Baked Pasta
1 small butternut squash, cubed
1 bunch of kale, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of sage, chopped (measure after chopping)
1 package of whole wheat pasta, cooked & drained (I used Pipe Rigati, but really any pasta shape that’s not the long noodles would work. I think orecchiette, rigatoni, or farfalle would work particularly well.)
1/2 c. parmegaino reggiano, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. milk (Whatever you have is fine, I used 1%. If you’re going vegan you could try unsweetened soy or almond milk, but I can’t vouch for how that would work out.)
1 c. chicken or vegetable broth (2 c. if making extra sauce)
3 tbsp butter (4 if making extra sauce)
3 tbsp flour (4 if making extra sauce)
1 small onion, halved with skin removed or 1/2 large onion
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/8 tsp of nutmeg (just to give it the Je ne sais quoi, you don’t actually want the nutmeg to be a prominent flavor. You can use up to 1/4 of a tsp if you would like it to be a more prominent flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. gruyere cheese
1/2 c. mozzarella cheese (you can use all gruyere or all mozzarella, if you prefer)
1/4 c. whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 c. walnuts, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Prep the veggies. Prepare the squash by peeling it with a vegetable peeler, removing the seeds and strands, and cutting into 1/2” cubes. If you’re iffy on how to prepare kale make sure to remove the stems (more detail here).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pasta water on to boil on the back burner, don’t forget about it! Make sure to throw the pasta in when it starts boiling. In a small sauce pan, put on the milk, broth, onion, garlic, and bay leaves on medium low heat. Allow the liquid to heat, stirring occasionally while you sauté the squash. Do not boil! Once a couple of bubbles appear around the edge, cut the heat. Remove the aromatics right before making the sauce.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the squash and onion and cook, stirring often, until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the sage and garlic and cook for another minute or two until fragrant.
For the sauce, melt the butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Stir in the flour, making sure that it is smooth. Cook the roux for a minute or two until the color has deepened slightly. Add 1 c of the warm milk mixture in, whisking frantically so you don’t get any lumps. Proceed in this manner, adding a cup of the milk mixture at a time and whisking the heck out of the sauce to ensure you don’t have any lumps. If it looks at first like it’s trying to lump up, don’t worry, just whisk!
After all of the milk mixture has been incorporated, add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a bubble and then cut the heat down to low. Allow to gently simmer while the pasta finishes cooking. (Congrats, you just made béchamel sauce!)
In a large (And I do mean LARGE! I had to use my biggest glass bowl and it still almost didn’t fit!) bowl mix together the kale, squash mixture, sauce, parmesan, and cooked and drained pasta together.
Dump it all into a prepared 9”x13” baking dish and cover with foil. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes.
Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Remove the dish from the oven, remove the foil, and sprinkle with the topping. Place back in the oven, uncovered, for 5 more minutes. If your topping isn’t brown and bubbly yet, turn on the broiler for a minute or two. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn!
Serve with a side salad, if desired. Enjoy!