Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Manicotti with Parmesan Béchamel Sauce and Fried Sage

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by Chris of Shared Appetite

Fall is here. And I have to admit, it’s kind of bittersweet. The end of summer means back to school for us teachers. Goodbye to corn and tomato season. And man, I love my corn. Worst of all, the days get shorter and shorter.

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Then again, fall is pretty awesome. The cooler temps are much better suited for me. And although I’m sad to see corn go, I’m welcoming apple cider (and pie!) with open arms. In addition, one of my absolute favorite family of vegetables starts to pop up at the market … squash.

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During my last trip to the grocery store the butternut squash was totally staring me down. Combine that with the delicious Wisconsin ricotta, and my wife Asheley’s desire to clean out the pantry (I’ve had a box of manicotti shells in there for quite a while, apparently), and this dish was born.

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Like manicotti? You’ll love this version with butternut squash even more. It adds so much flavor and subtle sweetness to the dish, as well as some stunning color. And hey, any time we can sneak in some extra greens into our daily diets (I’m looking at you, Swiss chard), the better.

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Let’s not even talk about my obsession with this Parmesan Béchamel Sauce. It’s such a great pairing with the Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Manicotti, thanks to the amazing nutty and piquant Wisconsin parmesan cheese.

So summer … I’m sad to see ya go. Come over here, fall, and give me a hug! Just don’t try to eat my manicotti. It’s all mine.

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Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Manicotti with Parmesan Béchamel Sauce and Fried Sage
By Chris of Shared Appetite 

Servings: 4 (approximately 3 manicotti each)

 

Ingredients:

 

For Parmesan Béchamel Sauce and Fried Sage:

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

20-24 fresh sage leaves

Kosher salt

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup flour

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin parmesan cheese, finely shredded

Freshly ground black pepper

 

For Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Manicotti:

1 medium butternut squash

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves torn into small pieces

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 8-ounce package manicotti noodles

Nonstick cooking spray

1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk Wisconsin ricotta

1 egg

1/3 cup (about 2 ounces) Wisconsin parmesan cheese, grated

 

Cooking Directions:

 

For sauce: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in small skillet to generously coat bottom Fry sage leaves in batches (about 6 to 8 at a time) about 10 seconds each. Remove immediately, using fork, and drain on paper towels. Sage will crisp as it drains. Sprinkle with kosher salt and set aside for later use.

 

Heat butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, stirring constantly; cook for 1 minute. Add flour; cook, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes. Add milk, whisking to fully incorporate. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese until melted. Season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

 

For Manicotti: Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut butternut squash in half, peel; remove seeds and “strings.” Dice squash into 1/2-inch pieces; place on aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Roast squash 40-45 minutes, until tender and easily pierced with fork. Cool slightly.

 

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add Swiss chard; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until wilted and tender, about 5-7 minutes.

 

Bring large pot of salted water to boil; cook manicotti noodles according to package directions. Drain immediately; arrange in single layer on baking sheet sprayed lightly with nonstick spray.

 

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Place butternut squash, ricotta, egg and parmesan cheese in food processor. Purée until fully combined. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove food processor blade and stir in Swiss chard.

 

Spray oven-safe baking dish large enough to hold all manicotti with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon butternut squash filling into large resealable plastic bag; snip off one corner, to make a pastry bag. Squeeze filling into each manicotti noodle and place in baking dish. Alternatively, spoon filling into noodles.

 

Top manicotti with Parmesan Béchamel Sauce and Fried Sage; cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes.

 

Remove manicotti from oven, remove foil, and top manicotti with fried sage leaves. Serve immediately.

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