Butternut Squash Ziti
This Butternut Squash Ziti is a twist on the traditional baked ziti dish. Nix all the tomatoes. Add in tons of butternut squash. Cover it in cheese and dig in!
Butternut Squash ZitiJump to Recipe
You know it’s definitely fall because there’s a huge pile of squashes and gourds stacked at markets in a decorative fashion that most people walk by. Of course, with a tiny amount of work, the average squash is about as versatile as butter. This Butternut Squash Ziti takes full advantage of how creamy and wonderful butternut squash can be.
I first had the idea for this baked ziti at the store one day. They had a massive display of butternut squash (it being fall and all) so I grab one and thought I’d figure out what to do with it later.
Later came about two aisles down when I spotted some ziti. I figured putting those two things together in a butternut squash baked ziti might just work out.
Turns out I’m still making this recipe many years later and it’s a favorite amongst Macheesmo readers!
Table of contents
Roasting the Butternut squash
This recipe is actually pretty hands off. To start you need to roast butternut squash. If you’ve never done this before, the easiest way to slice a large gourd or squash is to sit it on a sturdy surface and stab it right in the middle with a large knife so the knife is standing straight up in the air, perpendicular to the squash.
Then slowly push the knife down and it should easily slice half the squash open. Repeat on the other side and you’ll be all set with two even halves of squash.
Lay these on a baking sheet and poke some holes in the skins with a fork. Take some aggression out!
Bake these at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes until the squash are super-tender. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the squash.
When they come out, they’ll be really tender and very hot!
These will need to cool for probably 10 minutes until you can handle them.
Can you microwave butternut squash?
In short yes. If you need to speed up the prep time for this dish, this is the shortcut to take. If you slice your butternut squash in half and poke some holes in the skin, then place the squash face down in a microwave-safe dish.
Add about a cup of water to the dish and microwave it on high for five minutes. Test the squash to see if it’s tender. It will probably need ten minutes total to get completely tender.
Once the squash is cooked, you can use it in the butternut squash sauce recipe just like the roasted version.
Personally, I think the roasted version has a little more concentrated flavor and ends up being slightly sweeter, but it’s a subtle difference.
Making the Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
When your butternut squash are cool enough to handle, scoop all the meat out with a spoon (discard seeds and guts) and add it to your food processor bowl, or just a big bowl for mashing.
Combine the half and half (or cream), cayenne pepper, nutmeg (optional, but good), and about half of the cheese with the butternut squash. Puree it until smooth and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
If it’s not really creamy, add a bit more Half & Half or heavy cream. Also, this would be a good time to start tasting the sauce. It should be really smooth and flavorful with just a tiny amount of spice.
While you’re doing all this you should be cooking the ziti in a large pot with salted water. If you’ve never made ziti before, it’s basically like a thick penne pasta which makes it great for baked pasta dishes because the noodles don’t fall apart at all.
Mix the butternut squash mixture and the ziti noodles together really well.
Resist eating this as-is because it’s really very tasty at this point. If the mixture seems dry, you can add more liquid (cream or water) to thin it out a bit.
Maybe the most important part
Butter a large baking dish (a 9×13 pan to be exact) or a casserole dish! If you don’t butter this bad boy really nicely, the ziti will stick badly to the pan.
This is important.
Add all the ziti and smooth it out, then sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.
Bake this delicious thing for about 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is really melted and the ziti is slightly browned around the edges. It’ll be really hot at this point. Too hot to eat for sure. Let it cool for a few minutes before eating/serving.YUM.
When you do serve it up though, you’ll love it. I promise.
If you’ve had ziti before you’re probably used to a tomato-based thing with lots of mozzarella cheese and trust me I like that just as much as the next guy. But this butternut squash baked ziti is equally delicious… if not more so just because it’s so different.
So the next time you pass by that decorative display, mess it up and take one of those beautiful squash home.
Substitutions and Ideas
I kept the recipe for this baked ziti pretty straightforward and simple, but there are lots of easy substitutions you could try to change-up the flavors!
- Instead of gruyere cheese, try mixing in ricotta cheese.
- Feel free to experiment with add-ins like sauteed spinach, roasted garlic, and even browned Italian sausage.
- Use fresh herbs to compliment the squash flavor like fresh sage or fresh rosemary.
- Change up the squash you use for this. Try acorn squash or even pumpkin!
My Butternut Squash Ziti Recipe
Butternut Squash Ziti
- 3 cups roasted butternut squash about 1 med. squash
- 1 lb ziti pasta
- 1 cup Half & Half
- ½ teas cayenne pepper
- ½ teas ground nutmeg
- 8 oz. Gruyere cheese grated
- 1 tbsp butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350˚F. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise and lay skin-side up on a large baking sheet. Poke a bunch of wholes in the skins with a fork and bake at 350 degrees until the squash is very tender, 45-60 minutes.
- Let squash cool for a few minutes and then scoop squash into a large bowl (or food processor bowl)
- Add half and half, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and 1/2 of the grated cheese and process until smooth. If you don’t have a processor you can just mash well to combine everything. If the mixture looks too thick, you can add 1/2 cup of pasta water to thin it out.
- Cook ziti according to packaging, drain, and combine ziti and butternut squash mixture.
- Butter a 9×13 baking dish very well.Add ziti mixture to baking dish and sprinkle on rest of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and ziti is slightly brown around edges, about 25-30 minutes.Cool for a few minutes and serve it up!
Did you make this?
Snap a photo and tag @macheesmo so I can see your work.
43 Responses to “Butternut Squash Ziti” Leave a comment
so this is a healthier mac & cheese because of the squash yes? lol
Do you have any suggestions on a more common cheese that I can use? I live in a rural area and cannot find the Gruyere cheese (I had really wanted to try your peach grilled cheese too…).
I think a good sharp cheddar would be good as well! Honestly you could use anything that melts well I think!
I love the cowboy reference!
I love winter squash, and think most people don't give 'em a chance :) I've never thought to use it as a sauce for pasta like this, but I love the idea :) Thanks :)
Mmm. Squash. My local farmers market FINALLY had Buttercup squash and as I type there is a bowl in front of me. Or as my mother calls it, a bowl of "orange mashed potatoes." Good looking recipe, great thinking!
I love the recipe, I´m preparing it right now, but ich skip the roasting step and but the squash in the microwave, just 8 min on high, and they steam themselve super tender! :) Love your blog.
Good tip Carla. Thanks!
Just finished it, it tasted awesome, the hardest part is not to eat it before it goes in the oven ! Sorry for the typo in my first comment, I wanted to say "put"…
I had acorn squash and a small pumpkin from my CSA, so we roasted them to use in this recipe. Also, to add some protein, pureed a block of tofu with the roasted squashes. Sticking with the existing grocery system, I used Swiss cheese. It was delicious, thanks for the inspiration!
I am one of those people that is guilty of walking by the squash display at Whole Foods! :-) Thanks to you (and this recipe), I am going to actually buy one the next time I'm there! Thanks for sharing!
i'm pumped for this guy. thinking of adding some feta too, and maybe extra heat with red pepper flakes.
What a perfect autumn pasta dish! I'm going to try to veganize it, but if that doesn't work, I may just succumb to the siren song of Gruyere and make it the 'right' way. :)
Hi Nick , I'm a big fan of your blog ( all the way from sunny London) I'm still a little nervous around the kitchen. I made the sauce last night in preparation for a dinner party tonight, I found it to be delicious but really sweet. I was thinking of adding some roasted onions and sage leaves before I bake it with the pasta, do you think it's a good idea? Any other suggestions? Thanks a ton. Xx
P.S- you officially have a mini- following here in London !
Goodness…. sorry it took me a day to respond… I'm usually much better but I was travelling…. Anyway, I think you are 100% on the right path. If it tastes a bit sweet you could add either of those things I think to it. It is a bit sweeter though than a normal baked pasta… the cheese on top during baking does help with that though.
Anyway, let me know how it went even though I probably missed the boat on helping.
And awesome to hear about followers across the pond! :)
Thanks for a scrumptious recipe. Roasting is really the only way to go with squashes, really. I refuse to try to peel squash. It's nice that for that recipe I don't need to.
Nick, This is amazing…. We got a butternut squash in the farmshare and I made it for my roommates; it was a huge hit. Give my best to Betsy, and hope all is well.
I’ve had this bookmarked forever and I still haven’t tried it. I know…lame. I did want to let you know that I’ve included it in my new “5 Recipes I would love to make” feature on my blog. Please let me know if you’d like me to take it off the list. Thanks! :)
Haha. Why in the world would I want you to take it off the list?! I’m honored! Thanks for the mention!
Yep :) And I like to check with people, just in case ;)
This has been one of our go-to fall/winter recipes since you first posted it a few years back. We always have a glut of butternut squash from our garden and this recipe is such and easy — and tasty! — way to use them up.
Do you think this would work with coconut milk instead of half and half? If so, is there a kind of cheese that would be particularly good with that?
Yes Mark, I think that would work fine. I would use lite coconut milk and I think Gruyere is still a good bet on the cheese. :) Good luck!
Looks great! Do you think this would freeze well once baked?
Absolutely yes. :)
I think, ideally, I’d freeze before baking – undercook the noodles ever so slightly, then wrap and freeze (maybe in two smaller pans?). I’d bake right from frozen. for an hour, hour and a half.
Of course, if I had leftovers, I’d definitely divvy it up for future lunches or whatever, and freeze for sure!
It would be helpful to give an amount of cooked squash in cups. My dad grows monster butternut squash of 7 pounds or more. I doubt I would use a whole one of his squash. Vegetables vary greatly in size so to say 1 of whatever is not helpful. A weight or measurement is. Thanks!
You’re totally right. For this recipe you should use about 3 cups of roasted squash, which is about 1 medium squash. Honestly, it is pretty flexible so you could use as much as 4 cups and it would be great. Thanks for the reminder on that!
Thanks so much Nick. I think I’ll be trying this tomorrow then as soon as I pick up the cheese!
My family is not a big fan of nutmeg. Any suggestions for a substitute?
You can just leave it out or try some ground allspice instead!
Made this last night and it was delicious!
I love this recipe! I added a layer of sauted zucchini and onion to the bottom of the baking pan before I scooped in the ziti and butternut squash mix. The flavors from those two extra ingredients complemented the squash and cheese mixture. Applause all around from the family. Thank you.
I made this last night and it was incredible. The only thing I did differently was use extra sharp white cheddar and feta instead of the Gruyere cheese and I’ll tell you why… I was able to get ALL of these ingredients via free two-hour shipping using Amazon Prime (prime now) — I found your recipe on Pinterest and my mouth was watering by the end of the recipe. However, I live in MN and it’s currently like -8 degrees outside and I have a newborn, so I didn’t want to leave the house. Pulled up Prime Now and was able to get all the ingredients delivered – aside from Gruyere cheese so I ordered some sharp white cheddar :-) I have a feeling this will be a weekly delivery and meal at our house! Haha.
I think next time I’ll add some peas — it was a bit too spicy for me, but I think the spice is necessary — this dish has soooo much flavor! Maybe the peas will add a little sweet or even things out. Or, maybe I will cut the amount of spices in half. My husband loved it, too! It’s going in the recipe box! Thanks!
Oh, and I will also add — it’s super filling! As a vegetarian, pasta dishes sometimes just don’t curb my hunger for long periods of time. So when I find one that does, it’s a big deal! Must be the squash as the sauce? Vegetarian approved, that’s for sure!
Thanks for reporting back Emily! Always great to hear when people actually try (and like!!) the recipes. :)
I love that you ordered the ingredients. Too funny, but totally understandable with a newborn in the house!
I took this good thing and added to it (wanted to ensure all my eaters would love it). Italian spicy sausage, sauteed onions and garlic. Even my picky eater loved this. The leftovers didn’t last long! Thanks. I’m loving your blog.
This got my attention right off, just love butternut squash, then I saw Seattledebbie’s comment and I knew I had to try this. I love it as is, but I think the family will love the added italian sausage!! Can’t wait to make this1
I’m thinking of making this for a post-Thanksgiving dinner when all out guest arrive. I was wondering what you would think of adding some cubed chicken? With a side salad. :)
I think that would work fine. I have made this a few times now and it’s such a hit. Last weekend I made it for my daughter’s first birthday party and people were raving about it. Next time I am going to add broccoli I think. You will not be disappointed! I can also report that I have made and froze batches to eat at later times and it works out great!
Loved this!! I know you said 9×13 to be exact but because I cook for two I split this into two plans and froze one (before baking) and it worked perfectly.