Creamy Baked Rigatoni With Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese

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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.

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  1. Cathleen McKernan says:

    I have come back to this recipe time and time again. I’ve made it over a dozen times. And it’s not just wonderful on my thanksgiving table. It’s also PERFECT for potlucks and can easily be made vegetarian. And your tip of caramelizing onions has been locked in my memory bank for life. I’m shocked no one else has commented about how good it is – great job!!

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      Hi Cathleen, thank you so much! SO kind of you to come back and comment. Glad you love this recipe as much as I do 🙂