Thankfully the garden gave us a lot of squash this year. I like to make simple meals during the week and this one is very easy. Make it in a skillet, I prefer a cast iron one.
3 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta shells
4 cups 1/2-inch cubed uncooked butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups skim milk (or unsweetened almond or coconut)
6 ounces freshly grated Fontina cheese (in gourmet section or use another soft cheese like Butterkase)
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted brown butter
2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
fresh chopped herbs for garnish (sage, basil, cilantro, thyme)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare water for pasta and once it comes to a boil, cook pasta according to directions, then drain.
While water is boiling, heat a large cast-iron (or oven-safe) skillet over medium-low heat. Add olive oil, then toss in squash with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add stock and cover skillet, cooking for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash is soft and can easily be mashed. Remove cover and reduce heat to low. Mash squash with a potato masher or forks, smoothing it out with a spoon to remove all of the chunks. Add in milk, 4 ounces of Fontina and all of the Parmesan cheese, stirring until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. If mixture still seems way too starchy, add in additional milk 1/4 cup at a time, stirring for a while. Stir in brown butter, again mixing for a minute or so until incorporated. Taste and season additionally if desired.
Fold shells into the sauce, taking a few minutes to fully toss the shells so they are all coated. Top with remaining Fontina cheese (or as much as you see fit) and breadcrumbs and bake for 15 minutes. If a bubbly, golden topping is desired, broil for 1-2 minutes on high after cooking. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve!
To brown the butter: Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add butter. Whisking constantly, cook butter until bubbly and until small brown bits appear on the bottom of the pan – about 5-6 minutes. Watch closely and immediately remove the butter from the heat, whisking for an additional 30 seconds or so.