Butternut Baked Ziti.
Okay so just give me all the butternut squash baked ziti!
Seriously look at this fantastic cheesy dish. I realize that right now I need to be in serious turkey and stuffing mode, but HELLO. How can I do that when I’m staring at this lovely sight?
And if we’re being real, this could be part of your Thanksgiving if you wanted it to!
So obviously, since I try to reinvent the wheel of things I love, and since I just couldn’t get enough, I made… butternut baked ziti.
Not just any butternut baked ziti. This is loaded with fire roasted tomatoes (my all-time fave!), roasted butternut squash, parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta, herbs – all the good stuff! I did not include sausage or ground beef in mine, but you absolutely could do that. Brown it and throw it in the dish with the rest of the ingredients.
I got a the wildest craving for some sort of butternut pasta a few weeks ago. It was all I could think about! So I made the butternut skillet shells for dinner and we enjoyed the leftovers for a few days. But it still didn’t curb the craving.
Ever since making this harvest pasta sauce last year, I’ve come to love the combo of fire roasted tomatoes and squash. It’s that whole sweet and savory thing, you know? I rarely want tomato sauce on its own, but pair it with something sweet and I am so there.
Now, if you haven’t made a butternut pasta dish before, you should know that it’s a little different. It’s not as ooey-gooey, melty and cheesy as traditional mac and cheese or ziti, though this is the closest I’ve ever got to that. The sauce is thicker and heartier, but the flavor is SO good.
I mean, really good.
Oh and it’s filling to the max! Like so satisfying. I love having just a bowl of this for dinner with a greens salad – I’m set.
This is one of my favorite dishes to make because you can totally make it ahead of time! It is a bit time intensive – you have to roast the squash first, then puree everything together, and then heat it and melt the cheese into a sauce. But it’s 100% WORTH IT.
And plus, do it ahead! You can bake it ahead of even wait until it’s all assembled and stick it in the fridge. Bake when you’re ready!
I probably won’t be putting this on my Thanksgiving table, since the last time I did something like that (with this lasagna), my family flipped their lids. But it’s definitely going to be a staple for the rest of the fall and winter months.
Perfect for a game day meal, a Sunday dinner, a weeknight (especially if you prep ahead!) or a holiday. I mean, LOOK AT THAT CHEESE.
Seriously, this should be your weekend plan. Now you have plans!
Butternut Squash Baked Ziti
- 4 cups cubed butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- 1 pound ziti pasta, cooked
- 1 14 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¾ cup milk, whatever kind you prefer!
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
- 4 ounces parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1 (8 ounce) container ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup seasoned fine breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the squash with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread it on a baking sheet and roast until tender and slightly caramelized on the edges, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- While the squash is roasting, cook the pasta according to the directions. When finished, you can run it under cool water to stop it from cooking and also give it a quick spray of olive oil, tossing it, to keep it from sticking together.
- Reduce the heat in the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
- Place the squash, tomatoes and garlic in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth and creamy. Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan or skillet (make sure it’s large enough to add the ziti!) and add the milk. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring often.
Once the squash mixture is warmed, stir in most of the cheese. Add in small handfuls and stir until completely melted before adding more. I like to do about three quarters of the cheese, saving some for the top. Once the cheese is all melted, taste the sauce and season it more if needed. I like to start with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper if needed.
- Add the ziti to the squash sauce and toss well. Transfer all of the ziti into the baking dish. Scoop the ricotta in between the ziti - I like to do spoonfuls folded between the pasta all throughout the dish. Top the ziti with the remaining cheese. Top with the breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and bubbly on top. Serve!
Crisped and crunchy burnt cheese is my love language.