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Baked Pasta with Sausage, Sage, and Butternut Squash

Though our adaptation of this recipe is not quite as visually elegant as the rendition presented by GoodFood Magazine, we’re certain it tastes every bit as good — and that’s what counts, right? GoodFood used conchiglioni, very large shell shapes, which we were unable to find readily available; the conchiglioni were stuffed with the sausage and squash mixture, then nestled into the sauce in a lovely and sophisticated presentation. We, on the other hand, made quick work of the recipe by tumbling everything together, the pasta, sausage, and squash blanketed by the succulent sauce instead. The result? Delicious!

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Sage, and Butternut Squash

1 lb. butternut squash pieces, cut into small dice
1 tbs. olive oil
small bunch sage, leaves picked from stems and roughly chopped
1 lb. Italian sausage meat
good grating nutmeg
10 oz. pasta shapes (conchiglie, pipe rigate, or orecchiete)
2 oz. butter (4 tbs.)
2 oz. all-purpose flour (5 tbs.)
3½ cups milk
2 oz. Parmesan, grated, plus extra for sprinkling (1 cup packed finely grated)
4 oz. fontina, coarsely grated (or use mozzarella)
drizzle of truffle oil (optional)

Place the squash in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 tbs. water. Cook on High for 10 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet, add the sage leaves and sizzle for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, divide the sausage meat into small balls about the size of unshelled hazelnuts, and drop into pan. Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook until the sausage is nicely browned. Add half the squash to the pan and set aside. Mash the remaining squash with any liquid from the bowl, the nutmeg, and some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Cook the pasta following package instructions. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring the whole time, then gradually mix in the milk. Turn the heat up to medium and bring the sauce just to a simmer to thicken. Add the sizzled sage, mashed squash, Parmesan, ½ tsp. salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Drain the pasta well, tip into the skillet, and pour over the sauce. Mix gently, then turn mixture into an ovenproof dish. Scatter over the fontina, grate over some extra Parmesan, and drizzle with a little of the truffle oil, if you like. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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