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Squash and Ricotta Casserole

Last night I made a meatloaf out of a combination of ground pork and ground venison, wrapped in bacon and brushed with barbecue sauce.

Yes, it was as good as it sounds.

We also had steamed broccoli (which The Young One buried in cheese – but hey, at least he ate it) and this dish, which I just sort of pulled out of my…refrigerator.

Beloved and I had gone on a cheese shopping spree at a large, natural foods store in Akron last weekend, looking primarily for sheep’s milk cheese.  I’ve come to love the stuff, and since I tolerate it reasonably well I keep some on hand most of the time (sheep’s milk gouda?  To die for).  One of the varieties we brought home was a small hunk of sheep’s milk ricotta salata – ricotta cheese that’s been pressed, salted and dried.  Because it’s much firmer and drier than fresh ricotta, it can be sliced, shredded, grated or crumbled and it has an amazingly smooth, creamy taste and texture – I just love it.

Again this year, we have a ton of winter squash.  We’re keeping it in the basement as opposed to the garage; I just love that I can run downstairs, grab one of many varieties and figure out to do with it.  At first, I thought perhaps a custard or savory pudding, but decided not to go to all the trouble.  Then I considered a souffle, but I’ve already posted two winter squash souffles.  Mashed squash is kind of boring (albeit delicious).  So I decided to do a casserole-type preparation, and it was delicious.  Creamy and savory with just a hint of sweetness from the squash, even The Young One ate a few bites and Beloved inhaled it.

I used a butternut squash for this dish, but you could use just about any winter squash and it would be fine – acorn, sweet dumpling and kabocha would be good choices.  And if you can’t find ricotta salata, 1/2 cup of fresh ricotta would probably work really well, too.  If you roast the squash in advance, this dish will come together quickly and easily.

Squash and Ricotta Casserole

Squash and Ricotta Casserole

serves 6

2 1/2 pounds winter squash
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup coconut milk mixed with 1/4 cup water OR 1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
2 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a 2 quart soufflé or casserole dish.

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush lightly with olive oil and place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Once cooled, scoop the flesh of the squash into a large bowl; add the egg, coconut milk or half and half, bacon fat or butter and ricotta salata. Mix together well; taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour into the prepared soufflé or casserole and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until set and lightly browned on top.

Nutrition (per serving): 146 calories, 8.4g total fat, 39.9mg cholesterol, 33.5mg sodium, 471.6mg potassium, 16.5g carbohydrates, 4.8g fiber, 3g sugar, 3.7g protein.

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