Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Baked Shells with Winter Squash

Today I am continuing my growing trend of making casseroles.  This one serves a purpose, however, as my mother hurt her foot and is recovering at the moment.  Time to swoop in with my one and only superpower:  the casserole!

This recipe is yet another variation on the theme featured here and here; namely the pasta with winter squash theme.  Yet it brings another flavor to the table.  This time instead of a creamy, fall-inspired dish, it's more of a comforting winter dish.  It features the woodsy flavor of rosemary, and a gorgeous crumbly topping.  It uses frozen squash puree, which is usually made up of butternut or similar squash, instead of canned pumpkin.

The only thing here that requires much patience is the caramelization of the onions, which does take some time.  Everything else about it is insanely easy.  If you like to make life difficult for yourself, you can break down a whole squash, cook it, and puree it yourself, but I find that the frozen winter squash puree in the supermarket is surprisingly high quality.

This meal is easy, hearty, and delicious.  There's not much to complain about there.

Baked Shells with Winter Squash
adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast
serves 5-6


cooking spray
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 pound medium whole wheat pasta shells
1 package (12 to 14 oz.) frozen winter squash puree, thawed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups of 1/4-inch bread cubes from wheat baguette


1.  Preheat oven to 400. (You might actually want to wait to turn on the oven until a little later to save energy, but I wanted to give you the heads' up of the temperature).  Spray a 9 x 13 or similar casserole dish with cooking spray.

2.  Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion slices, season with salt and pepper, and cover.  Let cook until the onion softens and releases its moisture, about 15 minutes.  Remove cover.  Raise heat to medium and cook the onions, stirring often, until browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes.  Stir in 1 teaspoon of rosemary.

3.  Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, and cook the pasta until just barely al dente, about 2 minutes short of the time on the box instructions.  Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain.  

4.  Add the pureed squash and the pasta cooking water to the onions and stir.  Bring to a simmer, then toss the pasta and about 1/4 cup of the parmesan with the squash mixture.

5.  In a small bowl, combine the bread cubes with remaining teaspoon of rosemary, remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan, and remaining 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss.  

6.  Pour the pasta and sauce into the prepared casserole dish.  Top with the crumb topping.  Bake in the 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.



  1. That casserole looks so very tasty! I love the idea of using pureed butternut squash, and I think I need to try this soon. I hope your mom has speedy healing!

  2. This is delicious - healthy - and medicinal!
    Best kind of cure for any ills .................