COOKING WITH JESSICA KARLEY: Enjoy the comforts of fall

Even though our temperatures have been a little on the warm side for this time of year, the leaves are changing because fall is here. I immediately start craving comfort foods. Two of my favorites this year have been Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta...

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Get cozy this fall with a bowl of Creamy Butternut Squash and Sausage Pasta.


Even though our temperatures have been a little on the warm side for this time of year, the leaves are changing because fall is here. I immediately start craving comfort foods. Two of my favorites this year have been Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta Bake and Roasted Root Vegetables.

Roasted Root Vegetables was something I came across while volunteering to work with another chef. We were “practicing our knife skills,” which is a really cool way of saying peeling and dicing all of the vegetables in the coolers.

One thing that wasn’t on the menu - but was made for the crew at the end of the night - were these delicious, very colorful, roasted vegetables: purple beets, orange carrots or sweet potatoes, yellow rutabaga, cream parsnips, turnips or potatoes, and green from the fresh herbs. They were all beautifully darkened around the outer edges after caramelizing in the oven.


It was something that I began to crave years ago when it was root vegetable season and still think about to this day. Not only did they make for a delicious side dish, but they are also a great addition to fall soups.

Now, in my adult life, these tiny cubes of root goodness have even won the praises of little mouths - mainly because of the natural sugars that come out after an hour in the oven - but they are also just so beautiful. Getting little eyes to approve enough to get the food into those tiny - but very loud - mouths is 70 percent of my daily battle.

The Creamy Butternut Squash and Pasta Bake was something I threw together the other night in an attempt to get some extra vegetables in the kids, have a grown-up dinner and use up leftovers at the same time. I was refusing to head to the store to pick up ingredients for dinner and was certain that I could do something with what we already had around the house.

I peeled and cubed a butternut squash into 1-inch cubes, added diced yellow onion, garlic, olive oil, pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper and then roasted it in a 375-degree oven for about 45 minutes.

The squash alone was good enough to eat, but I was not done there. While the squash was baking, I browned some Italian sausage and boiled and drained my pasta. My pasta of choice is usually penne or rigatoni, but sometimes I go with elbow noodles to try to keep the little ones happy by having something familiar on the plate.

Once the squash was done, I removed the mixture from the oven, added one jar of prepared Alfredo sauce into the food processor and blended until smooth and creamy. Then, combine the sauce with the Italian sausage and cooked pasta and a little fresh chopped sage in a glass baking dish. Place creamy, dreamy and not all that bad for you ricotta cheese drops around the dish then sprinkle it with parmesan cheese. After 30-45 minutes in the oven, we were in fall comfort, vegetable-rich, date-worthy, kid-approving heaven.

Creamy Butternut Squash and Sausage Pasta Bake


4 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

0.5 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1.5 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

⅓ cup olive oil

1 14-ounce box penne pasta noodles


1 pound Italian sausage

3 cups jarred Alfredo sauce (I used a creamy garlic one.)

3 tablespoons fresh chopped sage

½ cup ricotta cheese

½ cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine butternut squash, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, pumpkin pie spice and olive oil in a resealable plastic bag and seal. Toss gently to combine.

Pour onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. While squash is roasting, brown the sausage and cook the pasta in salted water.

Reduce oven temperature to 375. In a food processor, combine jarred Alfredo sauce and roasted squash and onions. Blend until smooth.


In 9x13 glass baking dish, combine cooked pasta, browned sausage, fresh chopped sage and the pureed squash sauce. Place tablespoonfuls of ricotta cheese around the top of the casserole. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake for 30-45 minute or until ricotta and parmesan are golden brown.

Serves eight.

Roasted Root Vegetables

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 large beet, peeled and diced (Be sure to wear gloves if you don’t want purple fingers.)

1 turnip, peeled and diced

(Optional to add rutabaga, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and any other root vegetables)


¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons rosemary

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Toss gently until evenly coated. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for 45 minutes, turning over halfway through. When golden brown and crispy, remove from the oven.

Serves six.


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Roasted Root Vegetables are a great way to enjoy the last of your garden produce.

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