Baked Rigatoni with Sausage, Butternut Squash and Kale
This is a rich dish-cold-weather comfort food at its best. It’s a great way to get the kids to eat their vegetables: They’ll like the mac and cheese feel, and you’ll like the fact that they’re eating something new. At quick glance, the recipe may seem complicated, but it is really just a few well-choreographed steps. Read through it first to get the rhythm. The key is to be organized-set the water up to boil first, preheat the oven for the squash, and then start to sauté the sausage. It comes together very quickly. The best part is that you can assemble this dish a day in advance and simply bake it the next day.
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You Will Need
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Lightly oil or butter a 9-by-13 inch gratin or baking dish.
On a large baking sheet or in a roasting pan, toss the squash with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Scatter the thyme sprigs 3 of the garlic over the squash. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until squash is tender, but not mushy. Reduce the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring frequently until the meat is fully cooked and no longer pink. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon, and put it in a large bowl. Drain most of the oil, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Lower heat to medium, add the kale and remaining 3 garlic cloves and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the kale is wilted. If it begins to burn or stick add a few tablespoons of water. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat, remove the garlic, and add the kale to the sausage in the large bowl.
When the squash has finished cooking, remove from the oven. Remove the garlic and thyme sprigs (some of the herb will stick to the squash, which is fine), and add the squash to the sausage mixture.
Cook pasta, and drain about 2 minutes before the package directions suggest, so pasta is still a bit firm. It will finish cooking in the oven.
Toss the drained pasta with the sausage mixture. Add the cream, 1 1/2 cups of the grated cheese, and 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss gently. Transfer to a gratin or baking dish, and top with the breadcrumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup of grated cheese.
(If you are making this in advance, allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator)
Bake for 25 minutes, until heated through and crusty on top.
Note: I love the nutty flavor of the lacinto kale, but you can use any kale available, Swiss chard or even frozen spinach. Look for precut fresh butternut squash at the store to make things even easier.
Kids in the Kitchen: Kids of all ages can help prepare baking dish, wash kale, peel garlic, measuring, tossing squash with oil and herbs, top with breadcrumbs and cheese. Older kids can grate the cheese.