This vegetable-forward casserole made with sausage and pasta is a great way to use up your butternut squash bounty. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Butternut squash abounded in the garden this year. Not just at this house but lots of neighbors reported good harvests too, including one who had very productive plants growing voluntarily out of the compost bin. One of ours ended up on the Christmas dinner table prepared according to an idea I spotted in the New York Times which mixed sage-seasoned butternut squash with orzo pasta.

My niece Sarah considered the dish and suggested to me what she called a “casserole-like situation” where we’d mix butternut with small pasta, maybe add some sausage, season with sage, and put cheese on top. Further consulting on this idea determined that either sweet or hot Italian sausage would be good, and that orecchiette, farfalle, or little shell pasta would be the ticket. Melty cheese like mozzarella tops the casserole.

Sounded good to me.

Starting with an onion softened up in olive oil, and a bit of garlic added, I mashed in the cooked squash. I decided on sweet Italian sausage but if you have a standard breakfast sausage use that. Use bulk sausage or remove the casing of links and crumble it for browning then stir that into the squash.

I also had a dab of ricotta lurking in the fridge so added it to the butternut but that isn’t necessary to the recipe. A hearty tablespoonful of crumbled sage added until I could taste it followed. We picked orecchiette to be the pasta du jour, boiled and stirred into the squash.

To maximize cheesiness, spread a not-very-thick layer of the mixture in a casserole, sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top and bake until it is hot and the cheese melted with spots of golden brown here and there.

This would be good without meat, and if there is a vegan in your life, a non-dairy cheese would work.

This casserole-like situation, essentially a non-cook’s description of recipe, tasted very good. One more butternut down, about a dozen to go.

Butternut, Sausage and Pasta Casserole

Yields four to six servings

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup bulk sausage, or 2-3 links of sweet or hot Italian sausage removed from casing

1 to 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cooked

1 tablespoon dried crumbled sage

Salt and pepper

2 cups cooked small pasta such as orecchiette, small farfalle or shells

Shredded mozzarella, jack or cheddar cheese, to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly oil a casserole dish.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a heavy pan and add the onions and cook until they soften, then add the garlic and cook until you can smell it.

Add the crumbled sausage and cook together with the onions until the sausage is browned.

Add the mashed butternut squash, cooked pasta and sage, and mix thoroughly.

Taste and add more sage if desired and add salt and pepper.

Put the mixture into a casserole and smooth over the top.

Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes.

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...