It may be rich, it may be cheesy, but this vibrant twist on a traditional pasta casserole is also packed with veggies. Beyond swapping out pasta for zucchini noodles—which, no worries, do hold up well in this creamy bake—the casserole boasts roasted butternut squash, savory mushrooms, and caramelized onions. The veggie blend in this dish is a great balance to spicy Italian sausage and the luscious béchamel sauce, which we infuse with robust fall flavor by first steeping garlic and herbs in the milk later used for to make the sauce. Although this recipe isn’t an ideal choice for a last-minute throw-together meal, it is an excellent make-ahead option. Every component of the dish can be prepped ahead of time for a quick and easy assembly, making this veggie-centric casserole a delicious and impressive go-to for entertaining.
4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (from 1 medium squash)
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, sliced lengthwise (about 1 cup)
4 cups whole milk
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
1 oregano sprig
12 oz. hot Italian pork sausage, casing removed
5 Tbsp. (2 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb. zucchini, spiralized (about 4 cups)
2 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine butternut squash, mushrooms, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large bowl; toss to coat. Transfer squash mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. Spread in an even layer, and bake in preheated oven until tender, about 20 minutes.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Combine milk, garlic, thyme sprigs, and oregano sprig in a medium saucepan over medium-high; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; cover, and let stand 30 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove herbs from milk; discard herbs.
Add sausage to skillet over medium-high; cook, stirring often, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer sausage to a bowl lined with a paper towel.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Whisk in flour, whisking constantly, until there are no lumps. Gradually whisk milk into butter mixture; cook, whisking often until mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Whisk in Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt until smooth, about 20 seconds.
Combine squash mixture, onions, sausage, and zucchini noodles in a large bowl. Pour butter mixture over squash mixture; toss to coat. Transfer to a buttered 9- x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella, and bake in 400°F oven until golden and bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
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