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Butternut squash and pasta bake with pancetta

Butternut squash and pasta bake with pancetta (Catherine Smart for The Boston Globe)
By Catherine Smart
Globe Correspondent / January 13, 2010

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Serves 6

Savory pancetta, cream, and garlic mingle with sweet butternut squash in this baked pasta dish. Cook the squash in the sauce to boost the flavor and cut down on pots.

Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound rigatoni
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 whole butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Butter (for the dish)
1 cup grated Parmesan
1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the rigatoni for 12 minutes, stirring several times. Drain into a colander.

2. Meanwhile, in a large flameproof casserole, melt the butter over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the fat renders and the edges begin to brown. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until softened.

3. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes more. Stir in the chicken stock and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits, until the mixture comes to a boil.

4. Add the cream, nutmeg, pepper, and squash. Bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Simmer the squash for 15 minutes or until it is tender when pierced with a skewer. Do not let the mixture boil vigorously.

5. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

6. Stir the Parmesan into the squash mixture. Fold in the pasta. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

7. Transfer to the baking dish. Bake the pasta for 20 to 25 minutes or until it is golden on top and bubbling at the edges.