I used kabocha squash because that's what I had available but I know it will also work with butternut. If you use pumpkin, you will need to concentrate the puree because pumpkin has a lot more water in its flesh.
Yes, this recipe is a 'production' that requires 5 pots and pans; but, in my opinion, it's worth it and it comes together quickly. If necessary, you can cook the squash the day before. You can infuse the milk the day before, too, but will need to reheat it to make the sauce. If necessary, you can put the whole dish together and then bake it the next day if you bring to room temperature first and increase the baking time.
If you don't reduce the veal broth, you can serve the 'sauce' as a soup.
Creamy Kabocha Squash, Mushroom, and Noodle Bake w Walnut Topping
1 medium Sunshine kabocha squash (they're orange, not blue)
1/2 c. melted ghee, divided
2 c. milk
1/2 t. dry thyme
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs parsley
3 whole cloves
2" stick cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
1 bag frozen mushrooms, or 1.5 c. sliced mushrooms sauteed in ghee (1 c. cooked)
1/4 c. flour (I use sweet rice flour)
1 c. veal broth, reduced to 1/4 c. *
2 t. lemon juice
1/2 c. grated gruyere or parmesan cheese
1/4 t. cayenne
1 pound noodles, any shape (I use penne or elbows)
2 T. ground walnuts
1/2 t. paprika
1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking pan with parchment-foil. Quarter the squash, remove the seeds, brush with 2 T. melted ghee, and bake skin side down at 350 for 30 min or until soft and lightly browned. Scrape flesh from skin and puree (I use a food processor; you can also use a blender or food mill). (If you have more than 1.25 c. puree, it makes a great 'pumpkin' martini!)
2. In a medium (2 qt) sauce pan, combine milk with onion, herbs and spices, and heat over med until it begins to simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Do not let it boil! If it does boil, it will instantly boil over so keep an eye on it! Remove spices and parsley. You can strain it to remove the onions but I like to leave them in. Season with salt.
3. Drain mushrooms reserving liquid.
4. In a large (4 qt) saucepan, melt 1/4 c. ghee on medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture bubbles. Reduce heat to LOW and slowly add hot milk, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. It should thicken. if it doesn't, raise heat a little.
5. Add veal concentrate, lemon juice and liquid from mushrooms and stir until thickened.
6. Add 1.25 c. squash puree, mushrooms, cheese and cayenne and stir to combine.
7. Adjust salt. Sauce should no be too thick since noodles will absorb some of its moisture.
* If you do not reduce the veal broth, at this point you can serve the sauce as a soup!
8. Cook noodles in salted water until they're almost done. Remove 1/4 c. of cooking water, drain the noodles and mix them with sauce. Add the reserved 1/4 c. cooking water.
9. Pour into baking dish and sprinkle with walnuts and paprika. Brush with remaining 2 T. ghee.
10. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until top is golden and edges are crispy.
Serve with bolognese sauce.