I am, admittedly, a huge fan of butternut squash. So a pasta dish centered around the humble gourd is not a hard sell for me. Throw in a bunch of cheese and top with crisp bacon? Yeah, be still my heart.
I love how butternut squash is so adaptable. I don’t want to go so far as to say bland because that would just be rude.
But really, this little vegetable is extraordinary, in my book, because it so easily and willingly takes on the flavors of a variety of different recipes.
That’s pretty selfless. No trying to be bleu cheese or capers and steal the show, if you know what I mean.
In this pasta dish, the squash is pureed (totally a do-in-advance option to speed things up) and lightly simmered with the simplest of ingredients: a bit of garlic, pinch of sage, and sharp, flavorful cheese(s).
You can use any variety of noodle here – try it with elbow noodles and you could get away with calling this squashy mac and cheese. That’d be kind of cool (or so says my kids).
The end result is tender noodles lightly covered in the creamy, yummy, cheesy sauce. There’s a hint of the butternut’s unique texture but it works really well with the pasta and cheese and bacon.
I’ve also given a few pointers in the notes of the recipe for options if you aren’t starting with a whole squash (think: using those handy dandy packages of already cubed butternut squash I just spied in the store; nearly did a bad cartwheel I was so excited).
Very satisfying, very delicious, very doable – this simple butternut squash pasta dish is a fast favorite.
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Cheesy Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon
- 1 medium butternut squash, halved, seeds and pulp discarded
- 12 ounces fettuccine pasta
- 6-8 strips bacon, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Pinch of ground sage
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
- 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the butternut squash cut side down on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Add 1 1/2 cups water to the pan (it’s easiest to add the water when the pan is already on the oven rack) and bake for about 40-45 minutes until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for a bit (say, 10 minutes or so).
- When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the squash halves and discard the skin. Puree the squash in a blender or food processor until smooth. You’ll need at least 2 1/2 cups puree for this recipe.
- In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water in a small bowl right before draining! Drain the pasta and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, cook the bacon in a large, nonstick skillet until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and drain all but 1 teaspoon grease from the skillet. Add the garlic and stirring constantly, cook briefly, about 30 seconds. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the squash puree (reserve any remaining for another use) with the ground sage. Stir in the milk, broth, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water and bring the mixture to a low simmer.
- One small handful at a time, add the cheddar cheeses, letting each addition melt before adding more. Add salt and pepper to taste (will depend on how salted your pasta water is; taste and add more if needed). Add the cooked pasta noodles and toss so the noodles are evenly coated with the sauce. Add any remaining pasta water if the sauce needs to be thinned out a bit.
- Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and reserved bacon and serve immediately.
For a true macaroni and cheese, sub out the fettuccine noodles for elbow macaroni. If you are working with already cubed butternut squash (like you can find in some produce sections), roast it on a sheet pan in the oven until soft and then puree. You want 2 1/2 cups butternut squash puree total. The squash puree can be prepared a couple days ahead of time and refrigerated.
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Recipe Source: inspired by a recipe in Cuisine at Home October 2014 (took their version and turned it around for a noodles and cheese dish; changed up most of the ingredients, adding and subbing out)