Butternut Squash And Ricotta Pasta Bake

Butternut squash and ricotta pasta bake – a hearty, comforting vegetarian meal that is sure to please all the family.

Pasta bakes are a regular on the meal rotation in my house; they are simple to make, easy to pack full of veggies, hearty and delicious. They are perfect comfort food when it is cold out, and just as good served alongside a fresh salad in the summer. Any leftovers are great for lunch the following day, either cold or reheated, so I always make sure that I cook plenty.

This butternut squash and ricotta pasta bake consists of a creamy tomato and ricotta sauce, with plenty of fresh basil for flavour, and is filled with roasted butternut squash as well as the pasta; obviously it is topped with plenty of cheese as the crispy, cheesy topping is the best bit of any pasta bake! As well as the butternut squash you could stir some fresh spinach leaves into the sauce to pack in some extra veg if you like.

Pasta bakes are a great way to get kids to eat more vegetables, but they are perfect for all the family too. If you are making this for children then I would suggest removing the seeds from the chilli (I left them in as I wanted a bit of spice), or just leave it out altogether, the pasta bake will still be delicious!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 medium/large butternut squash (about 2.65lb)
  • 1 large/2 small brown onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chilli
  • large handful fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 9 oz ricotta cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 5 cups penne pasta
  • 10 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (or vegetarian alternative)

Serves 6

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1.Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel, de-seed and dice the butternut squash and spread it out in a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for about half an hour until tender.

2.Peel and finely chop the onion, peel and crush the garlic, finely chop the chilli (I left the seeds in for a bit of heat but you can remove them if you prefer) and finely chop the basil stalks (set the leaves aside for now).

3.Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan and add the onion; cook gently for about five minutes until softened. Add the garlic, chilli, basil stalks and tomato paste and continue to cook for a couple more minutes.

4.Add the canned tomatoes, sugar, dried oregano and vegetable stock. Return the pan to the heat and bring up to a simmer, leave to simmer gently for about 15 minutes until reduced slightly then stir in the ricotta, basil leaves and plenty of salt and pepper.

5.While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta for a couple of minutes less than it says on the packet. Drain, then stir the pasta and the cooked butternut squash into the sauce.

6.Pour the pasta into a large baking dish. Slice the mozzarella and arrange the slices on top then scatter over the grated parmesan. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling then serve.

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