Pasta al Forno di Zucca

A traditional baked pasta dish, but with a cozy fall twist: a creamy roasted squash puree. Choosing red kuri and butternut squashes, roast them in the oven and then blend about 2/3rds of the squash with milk, or cream if you wish to make it more indulgent. Roughly chopping the remaining squash yields a balance of great textures, rounding out that salty bite from the crispy bacon pieces. Serves 6 as an entree.
1Xsmall red kuri squash, skinned, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1Xsmall butternut squash, skinned, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch slices
¾LBpasta, like rotini or shells
4Xslices bacon, finely chopped into lardons
1Xleek, dark green top discarded, thinly sliced
1 ¼CUPSmilk
¼CUPParmigiano Reggiano, grated, plus more for garnish
¼CUPgruyere cheese, grated
2TBSPNricotta cheese
¼LBmozzarella, grated
¼TSPNnutmeg, grated
1TSPNred pepper flakes
2TBSPNSthyme, finely chopped

  1. Set the oven at 400 degrees, and place squash slices on a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 40 minutes, or until tender.  Also, butter a large casserole or baking dish and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saute pan over medium heat, cook the bacon slices for about 5 minutes, until fat is rendered out and bacon is crispy.  Spoon out the bacon pieces onto a paper towel, reserving some of the bacon fat in the pan; set aside.
  3. Begin to boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta.  Cook the pasta for about 6 minutes, or about 3 minutes less than the package suggests, then strain into a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  4. In the saute pan with the bacon fat, bring to medium heat and add the leeks.  Cook for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom to coat the leeks with the bacon fat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. Remove the squash from the oven, turning the temperature up to 500 degrees, and place about 2/3rds of the roasted pieces in a large bowl. Roughly chop the remaining squash and set aside.
  6. Add the milk to the large bowl with the squash, and using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Stir in the cheeses, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, thyme, leeks, and bacon.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Fold in the pasta and the chopped squash, just until combined.  Spread the pasta mixture evenly into a baking dish, and garnish with remaining Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. 
  8. Bake in the oven, for about 8 minutes until the top of the pasta is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and let set for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.


Adapted from Food52.

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