I am a huge fan of baked pasta. I love taking a hot, bubbly, golden brown casserole of pasta straight from the oven, but my husband doesn’t agree. My husband is a pasta “al dente” fan, and in fact we argue constantly whether our pasta is cooked too much or is just right. I like my pasta to be fairly firm, but my husband is okay with pasta being downright chewy. Although I love the man, this is a constant area where we disagree, although I think I am right. Who wants their pasta still raw in the center? I must admit however, that it is really tough to create a baked pasta dish that is still “al dente”, but I still keep trying. I only cook my pasta half the time suggested on the package before assembling it for the oven, and find the pasta is fully cooked once baked. In a baked pasta dish, I find that do not mind the pasta being cooked a little more than usual.
This particular baked pasta dish actually won my husband’s praise because it included some of his favorite ingredients, such as pancetta, butternut squash, and ricotta cheese. The sweetness of the squash contrasted perfectly with the salty pancetta, and the dollops of creamy ricotta cheese just brought this dish to a whole new level. I love dishes like this one as they can be prepared ahead of time and then be popped into the oven when needed.
Deborah Mele 2016
- 1 Medium Butternut Squash, Peeled, Seeded, & Cut Into 1-inch Pieces
- 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
- Salt & Pepper
- 4 Ounces, Pancetta, Finely Chopped
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 2 (14 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes
- 3 Tablespoons Chopped Basil
- 1 Cup Chicken Broth
For The Ricotta Pockets:
- 1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
- 3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, Divided
- 1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella, Divided
- 2 Teaspoons Chopped Parsley
- 1 Pound Package Penne Pasta
- 8 Fresh Sage Leaves
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Toss the diced squash in 3 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Spread the squash over a foil lined baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.
- Heat the remaining oil in a pot, and once it is hot, cook the pancetta over medium heat until it is no longer pink, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 o 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, broth, basil, salt and pepper, then bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.
- While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
- Cook the pasta for half the recommended cooking time, then drain.
- Place the pasta and roasted squash in an ovenproof casserole dish.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta, and stir to mix.
- In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and half the mozzarella along with the parsley.
- Use a spoon to make 8 indentations in the pasta and spoon in some of the ricotta mixture.
- Top the casserole with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella.
- Sprinkle the casserole with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, then arrange the sage leaves on top.
- Bake the pasta in the preheated 375 degree F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the casserole is lightly browned and bubbly.