Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

Are you excited about fall? I certainly am! After the dynamic, sunny, sea sand, salt water-loaded summer months, it feels almost like a relief to come back home and experience the scent of coziness.

I love everything about fall – the colors, the mild temperatures, the way the sun kisses your skin gently, and of course – the food! Pumpkin, squash, apples, grapes, cinnamon, mmm… The richness of autumn produce just makes you feel like spending more time in the kitchen, prepping comfort fall dishes to enjoy with your family, doesn’t it?

This creamy vegan butternut squash is cheesy enough for a full comfort food experience, and easy enough for a weeknight meal prep. This vegan dish intensifies your tastebuds with its texture and flavors, yet the lack of animal fats in it makes it healthy, nutritionally balanced, and perfectly good for you. For more dishes that are designed with your health in mind, Download The Complete Vegan Recipe Solution.

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INGREDIENTS:

FOR THE PASTA:

  • 1 pound paccheri or rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Tamari or low-sodium soy sauce, to taste
  • 4 cups diced peeled butternut squash (about 1/2 medium squash)
  • 1/2 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • FOR THE BREADCRUMB TOPPING:
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, stopping 1 to 2 minutes short of the recommended cooking time so that the pasta is nice and al dente. Drain, return to pot, and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Set a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and turning brown, 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute.

Add broth, stirring to loosen up the bits of cooked onion at the bottom of the pan. Stir in the dry mustard, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, and Tamari. Add the butternut squash. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook until the squash is tender, 7-8 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove veggies from heat, remove lid, and let sit until cool enough to handle. Transfer to the pitcher of a blender. Add coconut milk and lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired. If the sauce is too thick to move around in the blender, thin it with a little more vegetable broth.

Pour the butternut sauce over the pasta in the pot. Stir gently to combine. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish (approx. 8-inch by 8-inch should be fine). It will seem seem soupy, but it will thicken up when it bakes!

Make the breadcrumb topping. Add Panko breadcrumbs to a small bowl along with the thyme, paprika, and salt. Mix to combine. Drizzle the olive oil over the breadcrumb mix and stir until combined. Spoon over the top of the pasta.

Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

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