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.
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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!
Lighter Cheesy Pasta Bake
- 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.
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