Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners

Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners

Butternut Squash Pasta Bake with whole Cranberries and Brie

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to 350°F

1 cup  whole fresh cranberries 

2 tbsp  light brown sugar 

1⁄2 cup dry red wine 

2 tbsp butter 

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided 

1 onion, finely diced 

1 lb  sausage, casings removed 

3 medium cloves garlic, finely grated 

1 1⁄2 cups vegetable stock 

2 cups cubed butternut or kabocha squash, cut into about 

1-inch sized pieces 

2 cups chopped kale (substitute with Swiss chard) 

1 lb  penne 

2/3 cup half and half 

1⁄2 cup finely grated Parmigiano–Reggiano 

11⁄2 cups mozzarella, shredded 

8 oz  Brie (skin removed), cubed 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, red wine and butter. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the cranberries soften and burst, and the mixture thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. The consistency should be just thick enough to spread without being runny. Set aside. 

Add the olive oil to a large 13- to 15-inch oven-safe skillet over

low– medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmery, add the onion and sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage into small, bite-sized pieces, until browned and the onion is tender, 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze any flavorful brown bits that may have accumulated. Add the squash and kale, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir well to coat. Cover, cook on low–medium heat, stirring often, until the squash is tender and soft, 15 to 20 minutes. 

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water, then add the pasta. Cook until about 2 to 3 minutes shy of al dente, tender yet firm to the bite, according to the package directions. Reserve 1⁄4 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain well. 

Add the half and half and Parmigiano to the skillet, and turn off the heat. Gently stir. Add the pasta and the reserved pasta water, tossing well to coat. Randomly dollop the top with the cranberry sauce, using the back of a spoon to lightly spread it out, noting that it isn’t supposed to cover the dish evenly. 

Top with the mozzarella and Brie, sprinkling the cheese on any bare spots between the cranberry sauce first. Tent with foil and cook in the preheated oven until the cheese is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and place the skillet under a broiler set to high. Broil until the cheese turns golden, 3 to 5 minutes, keeping a watchful eye as broiler temperatures vary. Allow the contents to set for 5 minutes before serving. 

Reprinted with permission from Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners by Nikki Marie, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019 Photo credit: Nikki Marie.

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