This Butternut Squash Baked Ziti isn’t really authentic, I know. Traditional baked ziti is made with tomato sauce and heaps of cheese and it’s delicious–I mean, anything with that much cheese is delicious!–but sometimes it’s fun to give a traditional recipe a little bit of a twist.
Ziti refers to a particular tubular pasta shape, so really, you can bake ziti with any sauce and it’s still technically baked ziti. In the case of this Butternut Squash Baked Ziti, I swapped out the tomato sauce for a creamy butternut squash sauce instead. The base of the sauce is pureed squash, which can be bought canned like pumpkin or made fresh in big batches and frozen for later.
Gruyere cheese complements the flavor of the butternut squash, so I added that in too, although if you’re a fan of cheddar, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve also made this recipe with a good aged white cheddar and it was also a hit–feel free to swap that in instead.
As for the herbs, butternut squash pairs well with so many–rosemary, thyme, and sage are three of my personal favorites. This is another component of the recipe that can be customized to your tastes–I went with rosemary, but the same amount of another fresh herb can be used if you prefer.
Like most casseroles, this Butternut Squash Baked Ziti is great for meal prep. Just prepare it up until the point of baking it, cover it, and refrigerate it for up to a day before cooking.
Photos by Lindsey Johnson
Creamy + Cheesy Butternut Squash Baked Ziti
Full of savory herbs and squash puree, this baked ziti is both hearty and filling. Gruyere adds a nutty flavor.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large shallots diced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups reduced-fat 2% or whole milk
- 1 cup butternut squash puree
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary finely minced, plus more for sprinkling
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces ziti cooked al dente
- 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease an 8x8-inch square or oval baking dish.
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots. Cook, stirring often, until just beginning to brown, about 5-7 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over the shallots and stir well
Switch to a whisk, and add the milk to the skillet, whisking until smooth. Add the butternut puree and whisk again. Allow the sauce to cook over medium heat, whisking often, for 6-7 minutes, or until thickened.
Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, rosemary, and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then fold in the ziti. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the shredded Gruyere.
Cover the baking dish with foil and place it in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes covered. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. If desired, place the dish under the broiler for a few minutes for a golden top. Sprinkle with a little more minced fresh rosemary and serve immediately.