Caroline, you know how much I like to make a nice baked pasta dish once in a while? Stuffed shells, Manicotti, Lasagna…these are some of my favorite comfort foods. We discussed this butternut squash that I had brought back from the farmer’s market, and I was pondering of all the ways I could prepare it. Well, this is what I decided to do with it:
1. Cut the butternut squash in half, bake face down in chicken broth till soft (a fork sinks into the skin easily).
2. Pull it out and enjoy a cup of soup with the broth and some spooned out portions of sweet cooked butternut squash. Meanwhile boil some water and cook those manicotti shells. No – I did not make these from scratch. Far to busy!
3. Spoon out one half (or less, depending on how sweet you want your mixture) of the squash and integrate mixture into another mixture of ricotta cheese (15 oz) and 1 egg. I shred finely grated pecorino, parmesan, or romano into the mixture to ‘richen’ it up. Sometimes I use pecorino or romano cheeses because they don’t have that strange smell that parmesan has – for those of you who have made an alfredo sauce you know what I mean. The romano is sweeter and the pecorino is saltier and sharper. Sometimes they are made with ewe verses cows milk.
4. Once the manicotti shells are drained and cooled, at least so you can touch them, preheat the oven for 350. Stuff those tubes mostly full with you butternut squash and cheese mixture (make sure you added an egg!). Lay them into a rectangular dish with some of your favorite sauce on the bottom and then cover them well before adding more cheese (whew, that is a lot of cheese). I added some pepper flakes and cayenne to the sauce since I like spicy, sweet and acidic together.
5. After adding some garden basil to the top I covered it in good ol’ mozzarella cheese and chopped garlic and baked it for 45 min. You might need additional time, just keep checking it till the cheese is brownish and the sauce bubbly. Ricotta and squash mixture should not be runny (fully cooked).
Manga! Manga! A seasonal pasta favorite.