Baked Pasta with Creamy Butternut-Herb Sauce

A rich, satisfying baked pasta recipe that relies on the creaminess of butternut squash to create a comforting dish perfect for guests and family alike. Based on a recipe originally published by Alexandra Stafford on the Food52 website, this version includes a variety of dried herbs to pack more of a flavor punch. Served with a salad it makes a popular and filling dinner for a crowd. I use canned butternut squash to reduce prep time, although you can use a whole squash if you desire. You have the option to add a touch of heavy cream, but this completely elective - I generally skip it.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients

Creamy Butternut-Herb Sauce

  • 4 tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup Diced Onion
  • 1 tbsp Chopped Garlic
  • 3 tsp Dried Sage
  • 2 tsp Dried Rosemary
  • 2 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 2 Cans of Butternut Squash OR 4 Cups Peeled and Cubed Butternut Squash
  • 2 cup Vegetable Broth
  • 1 tsp Salt

For the Pasta

  • 1 lb Whole Wheat or Regular Pasta of Your Choice (shells, fusilli, penne, farfalle, campanelle, etc.)
  • 8 oz Cubed Mozzarella or Fontina Cheese
  • 6 oz Grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream (Optional)

Instructions

Prep Ingredients

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Butter a 9x13 baking dish. Chop onion and garlic. Peel and cube butternut squash (if not using canned). Cut fontina or mozzarella cheese into small cubes and grate parmesan cheese.

Make Creamy Butternut-Herb Sauce

  1. Melt butter in large pot over medium/high heat. Add dried herbs and stir until fragrant. Add diced onion and garlic and continue to stir until onion becomes translucent. Stir in canned butternut squash puree (or peeled and 1-inch cubed butternut squash pieces if using), 2 cups of vegetable stock, and 1 tsp salt. Let simmer 15-20 minutes until the water reduces and becomes thicker. Remove from heat and puree butternut squash mixture. If using an immersion blender you can do this right in the pot. Otherwise cool slightly and transfer to a blender to blend until smooth. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it is to liquid just continue to simmer on the stove until reduced to the proper consistency.

Boil Pasta

  1. While the butternut-herb sauce simmers you can begin the pasta. Generously salt a large pot of water (till it tastes like the sea) and bring to a boil. Boil pasta for 3 to 4 minutes less than the time suggested on the package (it will continue to cook in the oven) and drain.

Assemble and Bake

  1. In a large bowl combine drained pasta, butternut-herb sauce, fontina or mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup heavy cream (if using). Toss to coat. Add mixture to baking dish and sprinkle grated parmesan over top. Bake for 10 to 20 minutes until browned and bubbly. If not browned sufficiently feel free to turn on broiler for a few minutes. If broiling keep a close eye on the dish as it cooks dishes very quickly! Cool slightly before serving and enjoy!