Author: Liz Frome
YIELD 4 servings
TIME 40 minutes
Here’s a pasta bake that comes together in under an hour.
You can buy precut squash, or cut it yourself: Trim the ends so that it can stand up flat. Use a sturdy vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Cut off the bulbous part from the neck. Scoop the seeds out of the bulbous part. Half the squash lengthwise, then cube it.
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
Spicy chicken sausage
you can leave out if you want a vegetarian dish
2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
1 pound penne or other tubular pasta
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
¾ cup grated Parmesan
2 cups mushrooms
4 packed cups baby spinach
1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size chunks
2 jalapeños, sliced into rounds
Bring a large covered pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, add a little olive oil to a skillet and heat the oil on medium-high. Sauté the chicken sausage and mushrooms until they are browned; 10-15 minutes and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides and a tight-fitting lid (or a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. Add the squash and season with salt, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every minute, until squash becomes browned in spots and feels just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, uncovered, until not quite al dente, 3 to 4 minutes less than the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain. If the pasta is done before the squash, then stir in a drizzle of olive oil so that it doesn’t stick together.
When the squash is just tender, add the broth. Bring to an active simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft and easily mashable, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off the heat, then use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to crush about half of the butternut squash and leave the rest chunky. Season the squash to taste, keeping in mind that salty Parmesan will be added soon.
Add the cooked sausage and mushroom mixture to the skillet. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with 1 cup reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, stirring vigorously to combine. Stir in the spinach one handful at a time until it shrinks down a little.
Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, the mozzarella, and jalapeños, then place in the oven. Cook until the top is melted and browned in spots, 12 to 15 minutes.