A recipe for butternut squash lasagna inspired this dish. Because you don't have to arrange sheets of noodles and build layers, this variation is less labor-intensive but just as rich and flavorful.
Make Ahead: The topping can be made a day in advance. The casserole can be assembled a day in advance, brought to room temperature and baked; don't add the topping until just before baking.
Servings: 5 - 6 side-dish servings or 4 to 5 main-course
- For the topping
- 3 slices good-quality white sandwich bread (about 3 ounces total), torn into rough pieces
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 equal pieces
- For the squash
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- Pinch salt
- For the pasta and cheese
- 1/2 pound dried elbow macaroni or other small, shaped pasta
- 1 1/2 teaspoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups whole, low-fat or nonfat milk, warmed or at room temperature
- 2 five-inch sprigs rosemary
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, such as Cabot Smooth Sharp, shredded (1 cup)
For the topping: Combine the bread and butter in a food processor; pulse 10 to 15 times to yield a coarse crumb mixture.
For the squash: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine the squash, oil and pinch of salt in a large bowl and toss to thoroughly coat. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring at least twice, until the squash is tender and beginning to turn golden and are slightly caramelized. Remove the squash from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees.
For the pasta and cheese: Have an 8-by-8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish at hand.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the macaroni and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt; cook, following the package directions, and pour into a colander to drain.
While the squash and noodles are cooking, combine the milk, rosemary and garlic in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. When wisps of steam begin to rise from the milk, remove the pan from the heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Pour the milk through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl or other container large enough to hold all of the milk.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it foams. Add the flour, powdered mustard and cayenne pepper, if using; stir well to combine, continuing until the mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute, then gradually stir in the hot milk. Bring to a boil, constantly scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching; this step will take 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the temperature of the milk. (The mixture must reach a full boil to fully thicken.)
Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so that the mixture is barely bubbling around the edges; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the nutmeg, cheeses and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt until the cheeses are completely melted. Add the cooked pasta, stirring to incorporate, then gently fold in the squash.
Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, spreading it in an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with topping. Bake until the mixture is bubbling and the crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes. (If the topping appears to be browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.)
Cool for about 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious.com.
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
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