This LIGHTER CHEESY PASTA BAKE is pure comfort food without all of the guilt!
Everyone loves a warm and cheesy baked pasta, especially on a cold winter day. While baked pasta is comfort food at its best, it is not exactly waistline-friendly most of the time. This lighter cheesy baked pasta has a rich and creamy sauce that actually doesn’t contain any cream at all; the secret is winter squash puree.
You can find boxes of winter squash puree in the freezer section near the rest of the frozen vegetables. It’s super convenient because you can just heat and stir – no peeling, chopping or blending involved.
No pasta bake is complete without cheese – I used a white cheddar cheese here, but mozzarella or gruyere would also be great options. This pasta is finished off with a topping of breadcrumbs that get browned and crunchy during the baking process.
Thanks to the pre-prepared frozen squash, this dish is super simple to put together; you can even assemble it earlier in the day and pop it in the oven later when you’re ready to eat. And as a bonus, it’s just one of our easy casserole recipes you can feel good about feeding your family – the kids might not even notice the squash!
- Cooking spray for baking dish
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion finely diced
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 pound of short pasta ziti, shells, penne, etc.
- 2 cups of frozen winter squash puree thawed
- 1 1/2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook for 6-8 minutes until onions are browned and starting to caramelize. Stir in the rosemary.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and reserve 1 and 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water.
- Stir the squash puree and reserved pasta water into the onion mixture; simmer 3 minutes. Toss squash mixture, 1 cup of white cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese with the pasta. Transfer to prepared dish.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of white cheddar cheese over the top of the pasta. Mix the breadcrumbs with the butter and evenly sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the cheese.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until pasta is bubbling and breadcrumbs are golden brown.