Give an elegant twist to your classic mac and cheese with My Baked four-cheese pasta with creamy butternut squash.
This recipe was inspired by the desire to incorporate my Italian culinary traditions into the American ones. The dish is a variation of the classic Italian Pasta ai 4 formaggi (four- cheese pasta), which is a simple recipe whose main purpose is to utilize whatever leftover cheese is in your refrigerator. Fall is the best time of the year to incorporate, the color and the nutty flavor of zucca (pumpkin) into this classic.
The recipe is super simple but rich. It is also one my daughter-in-law’s favorites.
The ingredients are not definitive; feel free to use the cheese you like however, one of your cheeses should be Parmigiano. If you like sweet Gorgonzola, I highly recommend it. In addition to the four main cheeses, you will also need some whole milk ricotta cheese, which will be used for the creamy sauce.
For the pumpkin I used the butternut squash however, the delicata or the kabocha would be a perfect alternative.
You also have flexibility in the choice of pasta. The recipe works with any dried short pasta you have on hand. I used the fusilli but other varieties such as gemelli, farfalle, garganelli, or campanelle would be perfectly fine.
BAKED 4 CHEESES PASTA WITH CREAMY BUTTERNUT SQUASH
PASTA AL FORNO 4 FORMAGGI ALLA CREMA DI ZUCCA
1 pound dried pasta, such as fusilli
1 pound butternut squash – peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
8.8 oz. whole milk ricotta
3.5 oz. gruyère cheese – cut into small cubes
3.5 oz. mozzarella cheese* – cut into mall cubes
3.5 oz. emmental cheese – cut into small cubes
2 oz. freshly grated parmigiano cheese
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 shallot – thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup vegetable broth
fresh sage (10-12 leaves)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven at 350 F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Add the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of butter, and the shallot to a large pot over medium heat. Once the shallot has softened, add the squash, and mix until it’s all coated with oil/butter. Add salt, black pepper, nutmeg, and few leaves of fresh sage. Cook few minutes until slightly browned. Add the wine and cook until evaporated. Add ½ cup of broth, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding broth as necessary. Uncover and cook 5 more minutes. The squash should be tender and the liquid completely absorbed.
Meanwhile add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions, minus 3 minutes. The pasta will cook more in the oven.
Remove the leaves of sage from the pot. Transfer ¾ of the squash to a blender and puree. Add the ricotta cheese and blend together until smooth. Taste for salt and pepper. Roughly, smash the remaining squash and set aside.
Add a ladle of puree to a large mixing bowl. Drain the pasta (reserving some of the pasta water) and add the pasta to the mixing bowl. Quickly add the remaining puree, the cubed cheeses, half of the grated parmigiano cheese, and the smashed squash. Stir gently to combine, adding hot pasta water as needed for consistency. Don’t over mix.
Divide the pasta into individual baking bowls (or use one large baking casserole dish). Sprinkle the remaining parmigiano cheese on top (you can also sprinkle some bread crumbs), and add a dot of butter. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and slightly crispy.
In the meanwhile, fry the sage leaves for garnish. Heat 1/ 2 cup of vegetable oil in a small frying pan. Fry the sage leaves, stirring, 5 seconds (leaves will crisp as they cool). Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
Remove the pasta from the oven; let the bowls stand for 2-3 minutes. Garnish with the fried sage leaves and serve.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!