Saturday, September 29, 2012

Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Pasta Bake

I'm always looking for ways to lighten up mac & cheese, and using vegetable purees is a great way to add volume and a smooth texture without a bunch of butter and cream. I make cauliflower mac & cheese quite often in the winter, and love squash with pasta (pumpkin ravioli...yum), but for some reason never thought to combine squash with mac & cheese. Until I came across a butternut squash macaroni dish on Pinterest. Yes please!


I made a few changes to the original recipe to "healthify" it even more, but this pasta is so, so good. The squash gives the sauce a nice creamy texture without any use of cream, the blue cheese gives it a zing and ton of added flavor, and the sage adds a nice earthy undertone.

Since I work from home most days, I put the squash in the oven to bake around lunch time (350 degrees for around an hour, covered with foil). Then I let it cool on the countertop until dinnertime, at which point I just scraped the flesh from the skins and mashed it up until it was smooth. Once the squash is pureed, the rest of the dish comes together fairly quickly.

I had actually forgotten I'd grown a bunch of sage in my herb garden, so was excited to finally have a use for it. I forgot how much I love the stuff!

I served the pasta alongside green salads with a lemon vinaigrette, and it was a huge hit.

It'll definitely be in the rotation a few more times this fall.

Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Pasta Bake

Serves 4
Lightly adapted from Butternut Squash Macaroni by Daily Unadventures in Cooking

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp. flour
2 cups skim milk
2 cups butternut squash puree
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 cups whole wheat pasta shells
3 medium tomatoes, chopped 
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Bring a pot of water to boil; add the pasta and cook about 8 minutes, until al dente (do not overcook). Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a saucepan, add the olive oil and a bit of cooking spray, and heat over medium-low heat. Add onions and sweat until translucent. Add the garlic, sage and crushed red pepper and continue cooking until garlic is softened. Add more cooking spray if needed.

Sprinkle the flour on top and whisk together. Stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the milk half at a time, whisking until smooth. Add the squash puree and whisk to combine. Add salt and pepper, then bring to a low simmer; cook for a few minutes more, until sauce starts to thicken. Add the tomatoes and then the blue cheese, and continue cooking over low heat until cheese is mostly melted. Finally, add the pasta to the sauce.

Transfer the pasta mixture to a casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray, and bake for about 10 minutes. Broil for the last minute to brown the top, then serve immediately.

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