Creamy baked rigatoni with butternut squash & goat cheese

Pretty much everything I love in life is represented in this dish. There is roasted butternut squash with sweet, browned edges; tangy goat cheese; crispy bacon; sage and sweet caramelized onions, all tied together with a lick-the-pot delicious browned butter bechamel sauce.

It might seem like quite a few steps – roasting the squash, caramelizing the onions, cooking the bacon and making the sauce – but it’s all mostly hands-off and I found it very easy to orchestrate the multitasking. Not to mention totally worth it.

I recommend you put on some nice music, pour a glass of wine, ruffled apron optional but encouraged. Enjoy the process.

The sauce starts with flour whisked into butter, called a roux. Milk is slowly whisked in, and the sauce bubbles until thick, making a bechamel sauce; one of the mother sauces of French cooking, and the foundation of many other sauces.

Allowing the butter to brown before adding the flour imparts a gorgeous toasty flavour that complements the sweet squash and sage beautifully.

I am sharing with you my secret trick for caramelizing onions. I sprinkle them with sugar and cook over relatively high heat, which coaxes them into caramelized submission much faster than the usual low-and-slow method, without any sacrifice in flavour or texture. Double the batch, and have leftovers for sandwiches, burgers, or topping pizza.

Creamy baked rigatoni with butternut squash & goat cheese

Serves 6.

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb rigatoni
  • 3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I find it easiest to use scissors)
  • 2 medium onions, cut in half then sliced thinly crosswise
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • pepper
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko
  • salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash cubes with oil, and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet; season with salt. Bake until tender and caramelized, about 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta as directed; drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crispy. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towel. Pour out all but 1-2 tablespoons of fat – enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onions, sprinkle with sugar, and cook over medium-high heat until meltingly tender and deeply caramelized, stirring occasionally (about 20 minutes). Stir in balsamic vinegar; set aside.

3. While onions are caramelizing, make the sauce. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat, cooking until butter smells fragrantly nutty and is a warm brown colour. Whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes. Very slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Cook over medium-low heat until sauce thickens, about 8 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

4. In a very large bowl, toss the pasta with the sauce, roasted squash, bacon, caramelized onions, goat cheese and sage leaves. Transfer to a large baking dish, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake until edges are crispy and breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

  • Amber Massey

    Wow-this sounds UH-mazing!  I’ve printed and will be trying it, soon!  Almost time for Bnut Squash to go away :/

    • Anonymous

      I know – so let’s enjoy it as much as possible till we are distracted by spring delights!

  • Ambika Viswanathan

    OMG!! That is such a gorgeous casserole! I LOVE it!!!

  • Meg Sweet Twist

    This sounds absolutely heavenly!!! 

  • Rwaida Scott

    Prepared this dish for my family last night for dinner – HUGE success! This is going to be a staple recipe in my cookbook. Thank you for sharing this delicious meal! :)

    • Anonymous

      Glad you enjoyed as much as I did!! You’re most welcome :-)

  • Pâte à Chew

    This looks great, I am going to make this tomorrow night for a girls’ night dinner!  Out of curiosity, how big was your baking pan?

    • Anonymous

      I spread it out over 2 dishes to freeze one, but it would fit nicely in a 9x13x2 inch pan.

      • Daniela

        I jut came across this amazing recipe! Sounds incredible! I want to make it tonight for my boyfriend and I but I’m wondering how you froze it as its too much for just the two of us. Did you freeze the combined mixture? Thanks. :)

        • foodess

          Yep, I just froze one uncooked dish, then baked it a few weeks later.

  • Sarah

    I love your photography! The recipe looks fabulous too. :D

    • Anonymous

       Thank you, Sarah!!

  • Reb Shay

    I noticed your last two entries’ photos resolutions are super low.  Looks like they were enlarged from thumbnails?  I don’t know if you noticed, so thought I’d let you know.  It’s hard to pin your photos without good photos!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Reb – thank you for the heads up, but I’m not sure what you mean. They’re showing up just fine for me! I’ve been playing with the exposure on my camera a bit, so perhaps that’s what you’re seeing… thanks for the feedback, though. Good to know it comes off as poor quality…

  • Shirataki Noodles

    Your dish is looking very nice & delicious i’ll definately going to try this in next couple of days..thanks for share buddy !!

  • Jolene

    Delicious! Everyone loved it : ) Thank You!

  • Brandy @ The Prudent Homemaker

    This looks wonderful. I need some hands-off recipes (as in, sitting as much as possible) at this point with my pregnancy. I had my husband carmelizing onions last night (to top a BBQ pizza); he LOVES them, and my children do, too! I’ve never tried them with sugar.

    I will see about making this very soon!

  • Brittany

    Wonderful! I realized too late that somehow I didn’t have any onions, but I got lucky that my boyfriend had grabbed some asparagus. It went perfectly with the mixture of goat cheese sauce, bacon and squash. It was delicious, although the step of peeling the squash took some time so be prepared for that. Otherwise, such a great recipe, thank you!

  • Jennalyn

    I’ve made Roasted butternut squash with sage & shallots, over rigatoni & goat cheese, but never thought about adding bechamel, bacon & baking….love it!

  • Laura – South Africa

    Love this recipe and love your others! We do meatless Mondays so make this without bacon – just as yummy. Thank you Foodess!! xx

    • foodess

      Thank you, Laura!! Glad my recipes are being enjoyed all the way in South Africa! :)

  • Julia Beckerle

    WOW! Very good. I had to use Hokkaido because in Germany there are no more Butternuts available. But it was delicious anyway! Some days before I cooked Butternut (Hokkaido) Mac n Cheese. It was a week full of noodles and squashes =D

    Thank you Jennifer!
    All the best for 2015 =)

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