Comfort food is usually loaded with calories, but it doesn't always have to be. Baked Penne with Squash and Meatballs is a great casserole that's healthy. It calls for low-fat dairy products, Swiss chard (similar to lettuce), and uses a butternut squash puree in place of tomato sauce. It's got pasta, meat, and veggies - it's the whole package.


1 medium sized butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Olive oil
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 pound uncooked chicken or turkey sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1 egg white
1 bunch Swiss chard (about 5 to 6 stalks), leaves only, chopped
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
1 cup part skim cottage cheese
1/2 cup part skim ricotta
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a pan with aluminum foil and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds, put the squash flesh side down on the baking sheet and roast for 40 to 50 minutes or until very tender. Set aside to cool.
2. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a large bowl (there should be about 2 cups total). Add in the nutmeg and season with lots of salt and pepper. Pour in the milk and stir until mixture is smooth.
3. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and set a pot of boiling water on the stove. In a small bowl, gently combine sausage, breadcrumbs, and egg white with 1/4 cup of the butternut
squash/milk mixture (don’t over mix). Form small (1-inch max) meatballs and set aside.
4. Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat with a splash of olive oil and sauté meatballs in batches until brown on all sides and cooked through. Cut them in half (if desired) and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the onion for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often, until golden brown. Add garlic and Swiss chard, along with lots of salt and pepper, and cook until chard is tender but not too soft. Spoon entire mixture into the butternut squash and stir to combine. Pour chicken stock over and stir to combine.
5. Cook the penne until just al dente and drain. Return it to the pot and pour the butternut squash mixture over the top. Stir in the meatballs.
6. Combine cottage cheese, ricotta, and 1/2 cup of mozzarella in a small bowl. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan and spoon half of the pasta mixture evenly over the bottom. Dot with cottage cheese mixture and lightly spread it over top of the pasta. Add the rest of the pasta on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with the remaining cup of mozzarella, and Parmesan.
7. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Allow pasta to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

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