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Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash, Kale, and Sausage

A.k.a Squasharoni as Pippa just dubbed it. This is decadently creamy with layers of butternut squash, kale, and sage sausage. It’s got great textural variety and richness. This recipe takes a while with multiple steps but it’s 100% worth it, especially on a cold day when you need comfort food and an all-in-one meal. Tonight we heaped it into a bowl and ate it cozied up on the sofa but it would be a great meal for company with a side salad and bread.

What you need:

1 normal sized butternut squash, peeled and chopped (not the 5 lb behemoth that the instacart shoppers always seem to pick out)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 bunch of Lacinato kale, stems removed and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp of dried thyme

1/2 tsp of dried sage

Freshly ground salt and pepper

1 lb bulk pork breakfast sausage with sage

8 oz of macaroni pasta (half a 16 oz box)

2 cups of half and half

1 cup of shredded Italian cheese blend (Fontina, Parmesan, Asiago)

6 slices of skim mozzarella to cover the top of the dish (the sandwich size slices)

Begin preheating the oven to 425° and chop the butternut squash into bite sized pieces. Put the squash into a 9x13 casserole dish and drizzle over the olive oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 20-25 minutes or until you can easily pierce it with a fork. Remove from heat and turn down to 350°.

Meanwhile, brown and crumble the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. When the sausage is thoroughly cooked add it to the same dish as the squash. If there is an excessive amount of pork fat in the skillet remove some but leave a smidge to sauté the shallots, garlic, and kale in. Add the shallots first and cook for a few minutes. Sprinkle over some salt. Add the kale and begin to wilt. When the kale is almost fully wilted add the garlic and turn down low. You don’t want to burn the garlic. Add another pinch of salt and cook stirring minimally while the garlic aromas release. Now add the kale, shallots, and garlic to the dish with the squash and sausage.

Bring a separate pot filled with enough water to cook the pasta to boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Cook it al dente because it will continue to soften in the oven later on.

After the kale mixture has been removed from the skillet add 1/2 tsp of thyme and sage and keep it on low heat. Pour in half and half and shredded cheese and cook stirring slowly over low/medium heat while the cream thickens and the cheese melts. It should gently bubble. Add in some freshly ground pepper. I like pepper, so I added a lot. When the cheese is melted pour the entire mixture into the baking dish and stir everything to combine. Add a little more pepper if you desire and then place the sliced mozzarella on top. Add another light dusting of sage and thyme on top and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven to broil and gently brown the top for 2 minutes. Enjoy!

*Johnny added red pepper flakes to his dish, it was a great addition!

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