Fall is just around the corner and comfort food is craved as temperatures start to drop. With an abundance of winter squashes in season, lighten up a heavy cheesy dish with a naturally creamy squash. Sweet butternut squash, earthy mushrooms and salty cheddar cheese are the perfect warm tastes for this hearty, but light pasta dish. Bring on the fall foliage!
Cheddar Butternut Squash Bake:
1 large butternut squash
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. fresh rosemary – chopped
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly cracked black pepper
12 oz. rigatoni pasta
1 sweet vidalia onion – roughly chopped
3 c. baby portabella mushrooms – sliced
1 T. butter
2 T. all – purpose flour
3/4 c. reserved pasta cooking water
1 c. skim milk
1 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
fresh basil – chiffonade
Preheat oven to 425. Cut squash in half and hull out seeds. Chop squash into large chunks and toss with olive oil, 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. black pepper, and freshly chopped rosemary. Roast squash flesh side down on a cookie sheet, turning once for about 35 minutes or until squash is tender. Set aside to cool and reduce oven heat to 375.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water (a generous pinch of salt will do), cook pasta according to directions – drain and reserve roughly 3/4 c. cooking water. Once the squash is cool, scoop squash pulp out of the shell and mash in a medium bowl.
In a dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until slightly golden and fragrant- about 7 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute for about 3 more minutes. Deglaze pan with 1/4 c. reserved cooking water. Sprinkle mushrooms and onion with 2 T. flour. Stir together and let cook for an additional 2 minutes, until flour smells slightly toasted. Reduce heat to medium low and stir in 1 c. milk, remaining 1 t. salt and 1/4 t. freshly cracked black pepper and let cook until bubbly and mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Stir in mashed squash and fold in cooked pasta. Stir in remaining 1/2 c. pasta water followed by 1 c. cheddar cheese. Top mixture with remaining 1/2 c. cheddar cheese and fresh basil.
Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly golden.