I have been dreaming about that Super Cheesy Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese ever since I made it last year. It was the first recipe I’ve ever made that I realized how delicious cheese and butternut squash are together. At first, I thought of just putting a “spin” on my mac and cheese by adding bacon but, then, I realized I already did that with this Baked Cheesy Bacon Mac n Cheese.
I wanted to try something new, something different and to use something other than noodles. I was browsing some of my old CORE recipes and I came across a Polenta Pizza that uses butternut squash, caramelized onions and Canadian “bacon”. That is when it hit me…..Why not make a super cheesy layered polenta casserole with smoky turkey bacon, fresh herbs and pecans!
I used a spring form pan so you could see the colors when I cut it, however, you can use any casserole dish to make up this recipe.
This recipe can be made ahead on the weekend so all you have to do it bake it for the last hour and dinner is served. It freezes and reheats well too.
All I can say is I cannot wait to eat my lunch each day this week!
BAKED BACON, BUTTERNUT SQUASH & POLENTA CASSEROLE
- One 2-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and sliced 1 inch thick
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage or 1 tsp fresh sage, chopped
- Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups vegetable broth + 3 cups water
- 2 cups course ground polenta
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 4 ounces low-fat sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 slices turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 4 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, divided
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Arrange the squash on a large cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp Olive Oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, until tender. Remove from the oven, mash coarsely and set aside. (You should have about 2+ cups.)
2. While the squash is roasting, “roast” the pecans in a pan over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes or until lightly toasted.
3. In a large skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sage and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, 25 minutes; add a few tablespoons of water if the onion looks dry.
4. In a large soup pan, bring the broth/water to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook over very low heat, stirring frequently, until tender, about 30 minutes. The polenta will get very thick and that is ok.
5. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of butter along with the mashed squash, pecans, crumbled bacon, onion, cheddar and 2 Tbsp parmesan. Scoop the polenta into a large spring form pan or a 2 quart casserole dish sprayed with nonstick spray. Flatten the top of the polenta slightly without spreading it to the edges; refrigerate until firm, up to 1 hour.
6. Cut 1 Tbsp of the remaining butter over the casserole and sprinkle with the remaining 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese. Bake in a 375° oven for 1 hour, until the top and side are lightly browned and crisp. Let stand for 20 minutes before cutting it into wedges.
MAKE IT VEGETARIAN by omitting the bacon or using fakin’ bacon!
Makes 10 servings at 7 points+ each or 8 HUGE servings at 9 points+ each
Nutritional information for 1/10th of the casserole calculated at caloriecount.com
STEP – BY – STEP
Drizzle the butternut squash with olive oil, sea salt & pepper, then roast for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and coarsely mash.
You can actually work on steps 2-4 while the squash roasts. Cover and sauté your onion and spices for 25 minutes.
Until sweet, softened and slightly golden. Add water if you notice them drying out.
Roast the pecans….
Whip up your polenta…..
It’s actually super easy to make your own polenta….bring the water/broth to a boil and whisk in the polenta.
TURN THE HEAT TO LOW and cook it slow for 30 minutes until softened.
It will get really thick while it cooks, but, don’t worry ~ just be patient and let it thicken up over 30 minutes.
Mix in the butter, cheddar and 1/2 the parmesan.
Then, fold in the onions, BACON, pecans and squash!
Stirring just until blended.
Scoop into the prepared spring form pan and/or casserole dish, cover and let it set until firm.
Preheat oven again to 375. Sprinkle chopped up butter and remaining parmesan all over the top.
Bake for 1 hour until the casserole is golden brown.
Allow to cool for 20 minutes before slicing into wedges and digging in.
A little bacon goes a LONG way in flavoring this cheesy polenta casserole. The first thing you taste is the rich, buttery, cheesy top, followed up by the sweet caramelized squash and onions with a little smoky BACON flavor in each nutty bite.
Once you take a bite, you will realize sometimes the BEST tasting things come to those who wait…
- B ~ Slow Cooker Egg, Sausage & Potato Casserole (5)
- S ~ Grande Dirty Latte (4), banana
- L ~ Baked Bacon, Butternut Squash & Polenta Casserole (9), 2 c veggie tray veggies with 1 Tbsp ranch (2)
- S ~ Apple, egg (2)
- D ~ 1 svg Baked Spaghetti (8), 2 cups tossed salad with 1 Tbsp Newman’s Light Lime Vinaigrette (1)
- DS ~ I am eyeing the Reese heart on the counter but I am really pretending it’s not there!
- Total ~ 31 Points+