By chefjess for Area Voices

This Creamy Butternut Squash and Pasta Bake was something I threw together the other night in an attempt to get some extra vegetables in the kids, have a grown-up dinner and use up leftovers at the same time. I was refusing to head to the store to pick up ingredients for dinner and was certain that I could do something with what we already had around the house.

I peeled and cubed a butternut squash into 1-inch cubes, added diced yellow onion, garlic, olive oil, pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper and then roasted it in a 375-degree oven for about 45 minutes.

The squash alone was good enough to eat, but I was not done there. While the squash was baking, I browned some Italian sausage and boiled and drained my pasta. My pasta of choice is usually penne or rigatoni, but sometimes I go with elbow noodles to try to keep the little ones happy by having something familiar on the plate.

Once the squash was done, I removed the mixture from the oven, let it cool slightly, and then added it along with one jar of prepared Alfredo sauce to the food processor and blended until smooth and creamy. Then, combine the sauce with the Italian sausage and cooked pasta and a little fresh chopped sage in a glass baking dish. Place creamy, dreamy and not all that bad for you ricotta cheese drops around the dish then sprinkle it with parmesan cheese. After 30-45 minutes in the oven, we were in fall comfort, vegetable-rich, date-worthy, kid-approving heaven.

Creamy Butternut Squash and Sausage Pasta Bake

4 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

0.5 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1.5 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

⅓ cup olive oil

1 14-ounce box penne pasta noodles

1 pound Italian sausage

3 cups jarred Alfredo sauce (I used a creamy garlic one.)

3 tablespoons fresh chopped sage

½ cup ricotta cheese

½ cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine butternut squash, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, pumpkin pie spice and olive oil in a resealable plastic bag and seal. Toss gently to combine.

Pour onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. While squash is roasting, brown the sausage and cook the pasta in salted water.

Reduce oven temperature to 375. In a food processor, combine jarred Alfredo sauce and roasted squash and onions. Blend until smooth.

In 9×13 glass baking dish, combine cooked pasta, browned sausage, fresh chopped sage and the pureed squash sauce. Place tablespoonfuls of ricotta cheese around the top of the casserole. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake for 30-45 minute or until ricotta and parmesan are golden brown.

Serves eight.

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