I know your asking yourself why I’m posting a recipe using winter squash when the first day of Spring just smacked me in the butt. I bought this squash a week or two ago when Spring was still a long-away wish in my heart and the market’s bins were overflowing with newly stocked squash and cheap prices. And because it’s one of my favorite veggies no matter what season were in and I want to gorge myself on it while I still can. So here it is in all it’s decadent glory and you can thank me for it later. Like next fall. Unless you still have one laying around…just hiding out in the back of your fridge because you’ve had enough squash to last you until next season and your trying to pretend it isn’t there. In that case you can thank me now.
This was a dreamy, creamy, cheesy comfort meal with lovely little hints of nutmeg and garlic. The star of the show shined through in every sweet, nutty, bite. This is my farewell to winter and all of my favorite seasonal vegetables like squash, especially the pumpkin-like Butternut.
Butternut Squash Baked Ziti
8 ounces Penne or Rigatoni Pasta
1 medium Butternut Squash (about 3 cups, mashed)
Sea Salt and fresh cracked Pepper
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced into rings
3 cloves garlic, minced
15 ounces Ricotta Cheese
8 ounces Mozzarella, shredded
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoon Flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 teaspoon fresh Sage, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh Basil, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in two and clean out the seeds. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast about 45 minutes cut side down until a fork pokes in easily.
In the meantime you can caramelize the onions. In a large sauté pan or iron skillet place two tablespoons olive oil and the onion rings. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over low-medium heat for about 40 minutes. Mix often and add more oil as needed, a little bit at a time. Onions are done when they turn a dark brown; at this point add in minced garlic and sauté for two – three minutes on low. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove squash from oven and let cool until you can handle it.
Cook Rigatoni until al dente according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl, coat with a tablespoon or two of olive oil or butter. Set aside.
Prepare an 8×8 casserole pan with a thin coating of butter or baking spray. Set aside.
Make béchamel sauce. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan whisk in flour, and cook for two – three minutes over low heat, until it turns a light golden brown. Whisk in milk slowly and simmer for a few minutes, whisking frequently until sauce begins to thicken. Whisk in nutmeg, thyme, sage, and basil, pour into bowl with pasta and toss to coat.
Remove the skin from the squash and using a food processor pulse until smooth. Add the ricotta, season with salt and pepper and pulse until well mixed. You can use a fork or potato smasher if you don’t have a food processor; first mash the squash, then add the ricotta and mash together until well mixed. Add this to the bowl of pasta. Add the caramelized onions and ½ of the Mozzarella cheese.
Beat the egg and ¼ cup milk together, add to pasta. Stir everything together until evenly mixed. Put into your prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over top.
Cook at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes until top turns golden brown. Let set for five minutes before serving.
Serve with fresh grated Parmesan or Romano.