Baked Cheesy Pasta + Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash is that cold weather meal you’ll want to enjoy over and over again. It’s gooey, savory, sweet and topped with crispy, herbed breadcrumbs.
Baked Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cheesy Pasta and Italian Sausage
Take a nutty gruyere macaroni and cheese, add in some Italian sausage, pile it high into a roasted acorn squash and you’ve got a hearty complete meal that’s also…just kinda fun!
The scents alone will have you salivating, but one look at a tray full of these being pulled out of the oven, and everyone will be clambering to get to the dinner table first.
Ingredients for Baked Cheesy Pasta with Sausage
Per usual, it’s time to pull out those pantry staples of olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper in addition to:
- Acorn squash — look for squashes that have a green, dull skin (some orange is fine, too) and no soft spots.
- Italian-style poultry sausage — I used the mild variety. Feel free to use standard pork-based Italian sausage, but turkey or chicken sausage is just as flavorful and my go-to.
- Aromatics — shallots and garlic.
- Unsalted butter — used for the roux and breadcrumbs.
- Flour — for the roux.
- Milk — I tend to use 2% because it’s always in our fridge, but skim or whole is fine, too.
- Spices — allspice and cayenne.
- Pasta — any short cut pasta of your choosing. I used mezzi rigatoni (a smaller sized rigatoni).
- Gruyere — I absolutely love this cheese for anytime I need something melty and gooey. It’s my favorite for mac!
- Parmesan — yep, a little more cheese…nutty like Gruyere, but with a saltier bite.
- Seasoned breadcrumbs — any type you like, or make your own.
- Fresh sage — this gets mixed into the breadcrumbs for a subtle herbal note.
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How to Make Baked Cheesy Pasta + Sausage Stuffed Squash
Roast the Acorn Squash
The first step is to prepare the acorn squash. Halve the squashes from stem to tip, then scoop out the seeds and stringy bits from the center.
Place these cut side up on a sheet pan. Brush the flesh with olive oil and season liberally with salt + pepper. Roast them in a 400°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on their size. (After the second bake, once stuffed with pasta, the squash should be tender all the way through.)
Remove from the oven and set the sheet pan aside, but leave the oven on.
Prep the Sausage + Pasta
Heat some olive oil in large saucepan. (You’ll use the same pan to sauté the sausage and make the cheese sauce.) Cook the shallots for a couple of minutes until they begin to soften, then add the sausage (casings removed). As this cooks, break the meat up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. When there’s just a bit of pink left, add the garlic continue to cook until no longer pink. Remove the sausage to a towel lined plate to drain and set the saucepan, with all the good bits, aside.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to the package instructions for al dente, minus a minute or two. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
Make the Cheese Sauce
Grab the saucepan again and melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook it for at least a minute, stirring constantly.
Begin to whisk in the milk, a little at a time at first to incorporate the flour. Add the allspice, salt and pepper and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir it often and watch that it doesn’t boil over.
Finally, take the pan off the heat and stir in the gruyere and parmesan until it has completely melted.
Bring it All Together
Add the sausage and cheese sauce to the pasta and stir it all up to evenly distribute the sauce. Divide the pasta evenly between the roasted acorn squash — you might have to pile it up high, and that’s totally ok!
Place the breadcrumbs and minced fresh sage in a small bowl and add melted butter and a dash or two of cayenne pepper. Stir this up, then top each squash with breadcrumbs.
Put the tray back in the oven and bake for 20- 25 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasty brown and cheese is bubbly.
Substitutions for Baked Cheesy Pasta + Sausage
- Squash — You can substitute buttercup, a small pumpkin, or any similarly sized winter squash. Roasting times may vary slightly depending on the density and variety, so keep that in mind.
- Sausage — as I mentioned earlier, you can use standard pork sausage instead of poultry. You can spice things up with hot Italian sausage, or sub in any fresh sausage you like.
- Spices — allspice is just a nice warm spice that works well with creamy sauces. Add more, omit or sub in nutmeg. The cayenne warms up the breadcrumbs ever so slightly, but that’s totally optional if you don’t like it. You can sub in other enhancers like paprika or chili powder.
- Cheese — the sky is the limit! Try this with any cheese you like (results may vary). Popular sub ins include cheddar, gouda, monterey jack, fontina…even brie.
- Pasta — I recommend a short pasta to make it easier to stuff the squash. Go traditional with elbow or try cavatappi, farfalle, orecchiette, penne, rotini…the list goes on. Have fun!
If You Like This Recipe, Try…
- Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Pasta Bake
- Ultimate Lobster Mac + Cheese
- Roasted Acorn Squash Bisque with Crispy Bay Scallops
- Curried Butternut Squash + Granny Smith Soup
- Spicy White Bean Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Baked Cheesy Pasta + Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 3 acorn squash
- 1½ tbsp olive oil divided
- kosher salt + fresh cracked black pepper
- 4 links poultry Italian sausage about 12 oz.
- ¼ cup shallots chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter divided
- 1½ tbsp flour
- 2 cups 2% milk warmed
- ¼ tsp allspice
- 8 oz short pasta
- 2 cups gruyere cheese shredded
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp fresh sage minced
- dash cayenne pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Place the acorn squash, cut side up, on a sheet pan. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over the squash and season with salt + pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Remove the sausage casings. Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and the shallots. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the sausage and cook until most of the pink is gone, breaking it up with a spoon along the way. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two longer. Remove to a towel lined plate to drain. Leave any drippings and fat in the pan and set aside for later.
- Fill a large pot with salted water and set it to boil over high heat. Cook your pasta according to the package directions for al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
- In the same saucepan you cooked the sausage in, add 2 tablespoons of butter and melt over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Next, whisk in warm milk, allspice, 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Watch that your pot does not boil over and reduce the heat if it creeps toward the top.
- Turn off the heat and add the shredded gruyere and parmesan. Stir for about 1 minute until the cheese has completely melted. The cheese will thicken the sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
- Add the Italian sausage and cheese sauce to the pasta pot and stir to combine. Divide the pasta between the acorn squash.
- Place the panko and minced sage in a small bowl and add a dash or two of cayenne. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, add it to the breadcrumbs and give it a stir to evenly distribute. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over each stuffed acorn squash.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.
Nutritional values are estimated and provided as a general guideline only.