I’ve never really been one to get intense cravings.

Case in point: about three years ago this guy I was kind of dating bought me a Snickers bar. For no apparent reason, actually, other than that he thought it was a good idea. I smiled graciously, thanked him profusely, and put the piece of chocolate on my dresser. (Needless to say, we did not date for very long after that. Any guy who brings me a Snickers bar instead of, say, strawberries and whipped cream or a diamond necklace – depending on how high maintenance I feel that day – is obviously not going to be compatible with me in the long term. He also thought McDonald’s was a food group. So you know it really wasn’t going anywhere).

That bar of chocolate sat on my dresser for the almost a year. Until I came home to find Tiffany running around our room one day like a hamster in one of those exercise wheels. When her eyes glazed over and she became comatose about an hour later, I knew what had happened.

I’m also pretty good at forcing myself to forget about foods that I know I shouldn’t be eating. I have a box of oreos sitting in my cabinet that I used for a pie crust in September. I’m pretty sure I’ve convinced myself that they are just a figment of my imagination. Out of sight, out of mind? Maybe that’s the key.
There are a few things that get to me, though.

Lately, dancing. I love to dance. And this is strange because up until about a month ago, I was pretty sure that I couldn’t dance. Then we started going to all of these bars where they play all of this Top 40 pop music. And it is absolutely terrible. Really bad stuff.

And yet.

I love it all. Jay Z, Miley Cyrus, Black-Eyed Peas.

Of course, for a bar to really win me over they have to play Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing or Bon Jovi’s Living On a Prayer at least once. But that goes without saying.

So that’s one thing. And then, of course, there is running.

I will be walking down the street and all of a sudden I will think to myself, “How much better would this be if I was running right now?”

Followed by, “How much better would this be if I was running AND listening to Miley Cyrus?”

My conclusion, usually, is that it would be infinitely better.

Onto the foods.

There is a certain subset of food that I just can’t keep hanging around my apartment. And the ironic thing about it, is that it’s the healthy-ish stuff that I find myself being unable to resist. Dried fruit. For instance. Dangerous stuff.

Roasted broccoli. I will make a batch and then eat it until I am absolutely positively stuffed. And then I will keep eating it. Not that that’s bad. It just gets to be uncomfortable after a while.

I think you know where this is going.

The two foods that I crave the most are…wait for it…wait for it…

Pasta and winter squash. Surprise surprise.

Now I have combined them in many ways before, from butternut mac and cheese to linguine with butternut squash and pesto. But this butternut baked ziti is by far the best.

I mean, how can you go wrong with ricotta combined with mozzarella and a beautiful herbed bechamel (the first bechamel I have ever really successfully made with almond milk, might I add!)? That is then mixed into mashed butternut squash? And infused with caramelized onions? All of which is poured over pasta, covered with more mozzarella, and then baked until it is an ooey gooey dream?

Um, you can’t. Which is why I should have made this approximately 8 months ago. When I bookmarked it off of Reeni’s blog (that girl is a genius) – the lovely and wonderful Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice.

But better late than never, I suppose.

Butternut Baked Ziti
Serves 6, adapted from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

1 lb pasta
3 cups mashed butternut squash (I roasted a 2 lb-ish butternut squash until soft and then scooped out the insides and food-processed them)
2 large yellow onions, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
8 oz reduced fat shredded mozzarella
1 egg
1/4 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups almond milk
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp basil

1. Preheat the oven to 400.

2. Set up the water for the pasta and begin to caramelize the onions. Spray a non-stick pan and add the onions, salt and pepper, cooking over medium-low heat until the pasta is done cooking (30-40 minutes) or until the onions are lightly browned. Stir occasionally. In the last few minutes that the onions are cooking, add in the minced garlic. Remove from heat.

3. Cook pasta until al dente.

4. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the pasta and the caramelized onions in there. Mix together.

5. Make bechamel sauce. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan whisk in flour, and cook for two – three minutes over low heat, until it turns a light golden brown. Whisk in 2 cups milk slowly and simmer for a few minutes, whisking frequently until sauce begins to thicken. Whisk in nutmeg, thyme, sage, and basil, pour into pan with pasta and toss to coat.

6. Mix the ricotta and the squash together. Add in the seasonings. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix into the pasta/onion/bechamel.

7. Beat an egg with 1/4 cup almond milk. Mix into the conglomeration described above. Top with the other half of mozzarella.

8. Cook for 25 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Let set for five minutes before cutting.

This is my fourth recipe for the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash, which is also being submitted to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen for this week’s Presto Pasta Nights!

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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47 Responses to 12 Weeks of Winter Squash – Butternut Baked Ziti

  1. SE(Denufood) says:

    yummy…this looks delicious, and new one for me..and such a similarity about the chocolates..reading your post made me realize, I’ve a box lying since last Christmas..

  2. This recipe is a wonderful gooey dream! Yummy!!! Plus, it’s a very good looking, groovy ziti! I love Journey too! 🙂

  3. Pam says:

    I keep squash puree in my freezer, just for recipes like this!

  4. Mari says:

    AWWW I love Journey!!!!!

    WOW Butternut Baked Ziti! that is pretty impressive…I wish I could cook like you!

  5. Marcia says:

    oh my goodness that looks so good. I too love butternut squash mixed with pasta. Will be trying that.

    I LOVE to dance and the Black Eyed Peas are my favorite. How can you not dance, or run faster, when Boom Boom Pow or I gotta feeling comes on the Ipod??

  6. SnoWhite says:

    yummy! 🙂

    I saw this post today, and thought of you and your “love” of yeast… http://mykitchencafe.blogspot.com/2009/11/tutorial-working-with-yeast.html

  7. Ben says:

    I know what not to give you as a gift now, hehe.
    That ziti looks delicious!

  8. Nat says:

    That is amazing Joanne ! I love the pictures too…you did a brilliant take on it…and yes, Reeni’s recipes totally rock… !

  9. Looks delicious. I don’t know how you are resisting those Oreos.

  10. Megan says:

    Oh good lord – that is insane!

    And yet….. I must try it.

  11. Shannon says:

    wow i wish i could forget about some things 😉 this does look fantastic!

  12. Cucinista says:

    I love to cook while listening to really cheesy pop. Bon Jovi makes everything better. And I MUST try this squash and pasta dish!

  13. Broccoli instead of Snickers…
    Miley Cyrus instead of Elvis or Sinatra…
    and pasta without meatballs (or even meat).

    But, it is a wonderful sounding recipe. My wife loves squash. I showed her this recipe and she plans on making it soon (will let you know). I’ll just plan a burger for that day 😉

  14. Juliana says:

    This ziti dish looks delicious, so creamy with the bitternut squash. Love the color as well 🙂

  15. I love Butternut squash and this sounds like a fantastic idea.

  16. Kevin says:

    I did a butternut squash lasagna last year and baked butternut squash pasta sounds just as good!

  17. I am on a butternut squash craze right now. I love it in everything. I made a risotto that is to die for.

    I miss the days of dancing to cheesy songs 🙂 Keep having a blast.

  18. Aww this is one of my favorites too! Thanks for the kind words! I feel the same about you and all your yummy recipes. You reminded me this is due to make an appearance on my table very soon. It looks excellent! Thanks for making it!

  19. Amy says:

    Oh see, if Paul brought me a Snickers bar I would squeal with delight. And a box of Oreos wouldn’t last a day around me. And dancing? Oh good lord…ever seen Elaine from Seinfeld on the dance floor? I’m worse.

  20. Donna-FFW says:

    Oh I remember this on Reenis blog. It looks delicious. I really should cook with butternut squash more often. Journey is one of my favorites.. Dancing running, I hope you keep your calories up. Geez, I sound like your mom.

  21. Loved this post because I could relate to so much of it. I can easily eat way too much broccoli. And I confess to a download of Miley’s Party in the USA. Dish looks delish!

  22. Kelsey says:

    Some of my favorite ingredients in one pan, perfection. Oreos are not even allowed in my house!

  23. Sophia says:

    Oh yes! Reeni has the most fabulous recipes ever. That girl is a domestic goddess!

    Hmm…a guy that gives me snickers? I take that over flowers anyday, actually!

  24. Toni says:

    I have been entertained by your blog for the past 20-30 minutes or so.
    And am now following it.
    Fabulous stuff!

  25. Marisa says:

    YES! to Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. But don’t forget about Def Lepard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me, and of course, Mickey by Bewitched. They’re guaranteed to get me on the dancefloor (not that it usually takes much!)

  26. Michelle says:

    Nice pictures and the Baked Ziti sounds so rich and good!

    I’m not much of a snickers fan and buying it for me as a treat…well I’d rather have an ice cold latte!

  27. Debinhawaii says:

    Yum–it looks so cheesy and good–a perfect combination.

  28. Looks like we are both into butternut squash and caramelized onions Joanne. They are the best combination on the planet…at least today:D

  29. Luigi says:

    Somone got you a snickers bar, and you dumped him. Italian women. Harsh but fair..lol I think I share your “ooey gooey” dream (the one about food that is,) I have got to say the baked ziti are looking absolutely delicious. Heavenly even..

  30. Kim says:

    I’m laughing about the snickers bar story. I once got roses from a boyfriend in high school and dumped him. Maybe he should’ve bought me a snickers ;D Too funny! This recipe sounds like a winner. You had me with the caramelized onions. Can you believe that no one coming to my Thanksgiving likes squash? My mother in law and I are the only ones who will eat it. The closest thing to squash at my table is going to be the pumpkin pie 🙁

  31. Girl, you give good squash!
    Love that you made it with pasta, sounds great!

  32. girlichef says:

    I suppose it was inevitable…the whole squash and pasta combo 😉 Looks delicious! Perfect bootie-shakin’ fuel 🙂

  33. Barbara says:

    Funny story about the Snickers Bar!
    And now to the main course: your lasagna. Nothing left to say except WOW. This looks so good and gooey and your photos are divine! Copying now.

  34. Lea Ann says:

    This recipe sounds delicious. A Snickers?? What “was” he thinking. Regarding your brocolli binging, I’m the same way with cauliflower. Can’t get enough. Call me odd, but when I hear “Love Shack” I want to dance.
    Great post. I’ll be making that Ziti.

  35. teresa says:

    fantastic! i love all the squash recipes, you’re giving me so many great ideas!

  36. Palidor says:

    I always love reading your blog because you’re so engaging! I had a date bake me homemade cookies once… unfortunately, we didn’t make it past the second date! Too bad because his cookies were good. 😉

    I love this pasta. Baked pasta is so versatile and comforting. My favorite part is the nice crunchy top.

  37. Ciao Joanne, I wonder whether you speak Italian or not.. so I try to write in English. I share what you wrote in your profile: eating healthy food is the best long-term investment. I run a foodblog because I want people to know that cooking and eating good stuff can be easy to do. I’m a working mother, with so many things to do, but I never used ready meals. And I’ve always cooked with my children when they were babies. I see so many fat children, even here in Italy, due to the fact that nobody really cooks in their families. So, I’m really happy to read your recipes. Ciao!
    Sabrine

    PS: I’ve been ill of cancer, know what it is… so please go on with your studies and your research projects: we all need it.

  38. You are a food goddess! Honestly! This looks so good that I know I’ll be thinking about it while eating Thanksgiving dinner and just wishing it was this on my plate! Serious heavenly food here! I’m making it as soon as possible!

    I’m one of those “weird” people that can’t stand fast food or things like candy bars either. My boys are still amazed that they actually witnessed a candy bar that lasted me 6 weeks – when I say I might like a little bit once in a while I really mean it. My top craving foods – pasta, tomatoes, garlic and sauteed mushrooms, not necessarily together but together is all good too! Hey, I just posted a recipe! LOL!

    I also crave cold beer but I don’t think that’s a food group – well, maybe just for me 😉

  39. I love Journey too! And songs that I would barely consider music at any other time become perfect when I’m dancing. It’s all about the beat and I think those genres serve their limited purpose. This pasta looks amazing and completely satisfying.

  40. kickpleat says:

    I have so much squash and I’m just not cooking with it lately, so thanks for the inspiration!

  41. I did see this at Reeni’s blog too and thought how delicious it looked. It looks like it turned out great! I have a butternut right now and I was wanting to use it soon. I’ll have to make this!

    Happy Thanksgiving! :0)

  42. Ruth Daniels says:

    Great post. Not least of which is the butternut squash pasta! Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  43. Great recipe! I can’t wait to try it!

  44. Kerstin says:

    I love butternut squash with pasta too, and this look fantastic! I’m always up for dancing too 🙂

  45. monicajane says:

    yum!! it took a while to get here, but this is a real winner!

    I’ve got one last pumpkin sitting on my cupboard and I have thought of making something desserty but the fact is I’m not a big dessert fan even tho I like to look at them and think about making them…I just generally don’t.

    THIS I can see me making…and I KNOW my husband would like it too.

    It may pop up on the blog with whatever spin I put on it…(I can’t follow a recipe if my life depended on it!)

  46. Katy ~ says:

    Sounds like a delicious and healthful combination. A nice twist on the baked ziti!

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