I first shared this Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta Bake recipe in November 2015. It’s such perfect comfort food for this time of year! It’s the ideal seasonal stand-in for mac and cheese if you’re craving creamy baked breadcrumb-topped goodness but are looking for a bit of variety (or avoid dairy).
We have an oven! We have an oven! Man, I missed having an oven. It was only three weeks, but it was a long three weeks. Now I can, like, bake real things. You know, such as dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for the little one … the first thing we cooked up. Hey, this is real life.
But then! Then I baked this vegan Butternut Pasta Bake. Redeemed? I’d like to think so!
This is basically another vegan mac and “cheese” recipe, in that it’s rich and creamy and has that look about it, and it’s based off of that same recipe. But really, this isn’t about the cheese or anything that tastes like it. It’s all about the glorious butternut and its ability to transform into a velvety sauce that oozes into every nook and tunnel that the penne pasta throws at it.
And I guess also like many mac and cheese recipes, this one is topped with glorious breadcrumbs and then baked until bubbly and golden. Except! It’s vegan! No dairy, no cheese. And just to up the healthy factor, I decided to use whole wheat pasta, too. Comfort food, justified.
Yeah … the brand spankin’ new oven might just be getting a workout with this one. Well, yeah. And with the dino-nuggets.
Creamy Vegan Butternut Pasta Bake
For the pasta:
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
- 2 medium cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
- 1 tablespoon Tamari or low-sodium soy sauce (to taste)
- 4 cups diced peeled butternut squash (about 1/2 medium squash)
- 1/2 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the breadcrumb topping:
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme)
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, stopping 1 to 2 minutes short of the recommended cooking time so that the pasta is nice and al dente. Drain, return to pot, and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Set a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and turning brown, 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute.
- Add broth, stirring to loosen up the bits of cooked onion at the bottom of the pan. Stir in the dry mustard, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, and Tamari. Add the butternut squash. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook until the squash is tender, 7-8 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove veggies from heat, remove lid, and let sit until cool enough to handle. Transfer to the pitcher of a blender. Add coconut milk and lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired. If the sauce is too thick to move around in the blender, thin it with a little more vegetable broth.
- Pour the butternut sauce over the pasta in the pot. Stir gently to combine. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish (approx. 8-inch by 8-inch should be fine). It will seem seem soupy, but it will thicken up when it bakes!
- Make the breadcrumb topping. Add Panko breadcrumbs to a small bowl along with the thyme, paprika, and salt. Mix to combine. Drizzle the olive oil over the breadcrumb mix and stir until combined. Spoon over the top of the pasta.
- Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 25 minutes.
- Let cool for a few minutes before serving.
Gluten-free option:Use gluten-free pasta (I recommend brown rice pasta for this recipe)
First published November 30, 2015. Republished October 20, 2019.