Healthy Butternut Squash Casserole with Sausage and Sage Breadcrumbs
I harbor romantic notions of myself as a farm girl. I’d gather fresh eggs every morning, milk my goats and make cheese in the afternoon, then cook cozy dinners like Butternut Squash Casserole with Sausage, Kale, and Sage Breadcrumbs, using ingredients picked from my land of course.
In farm girl reality, I’d whine about ruining my shoes in the chicken coop and provoke a goat bite. I still, however, hold fast to the beautiful notion of cooking from what the earth provides right where I am, right now—even if I pick from the grocery store bin, instead of my backyard.
This concept of seasonal eating became real to me when I first started cooking for myself. Directly out of college and on a budget, I quickly realized that seasonal ingredients both cost lest than out-of-season ones and taste much better too. What began as a logical budgetary decision has turned into a passion, and I now look forward to the way the colors in my grocery cart change as the year progresses.
My farm girl alter ego came into being after reading Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Though Kingsolver has written some of my favorite fictional works, Animal Vegetable Miracle is the true story of how she and her family moved to an inherited farm in Appalachia and ate only what they could grow themselves or buy within 100 miles for a full year. It’s an enthralling read and inspired this self-proclaimed city girl to dream about country life. Two days ago, I asked Ben if he ever thought it would be neat to live on a farm. He responded with an emphatic NO. My suede booties were relieved, but in my defense, Ben hasn’t read the book.
Though I’m certainly not a seasonal-eating purist (last February, I bought a $6 pint of raspberries just to remember what summer tastes like), dishes such as this Butternut Squash Casserole with Sausage and Kale remind me that even chilly winter offers ingredients to celebrate. The sweet butternut squash and hearty kale, together with spicy-sweet sausage and rosemary create a vibrant casserole filling so tasty, I snacked on it by the light of my refrigerator door.
Though the butternut squash casserole filling is lovely on its own, it is the breadcrumb topping that makes this recipe something special. I was inspired by a butternut squash crumble recipe in David Lebovtiz’ latest cookbook My Paris Kitchen. David’s version is intended to be a side dish and is rather decadent, but I was so captivated by the idea of a savory (vs. dessert) crumble, I had to try my own version.
I transformed the original side into an all-in-one main dish by adding chicken sausage and kale, shortened the ingredient list to make it more accessible on a weeknight, and adapted the herbs to suit what I had on hand. David’s ingenious cornmeal, breadcrumb, Parmesan, and sage topping, however, had to stay.
I lightened up the topping by swapping some of the butter for Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil and used whole wheat breadcrumbs. It still turned out perfectly golden and rich—no one will ever notice the healthy substitution.
I can’t say enough wonderful things about this butternut squash casserole. The filling is hearty and flavorful, and the topping is a delightful combination of sweet, salty, cheesy, crunchy. It can be prepped ahead and then baked in the evening, and it tastes fantastic leftover too. This butternut squash casserole is also loaded with veggies and lean protein. You’ll feel like a super star for eating comforting food that’s good for you too.
In addition to the butternut squash and kale in today’s casserole, December has a wealth of other bright offerings. Once again, I’m joining my friend Becky of The Vintage Mixer and the #EatSeasonal blogger team to share a collection of seasonal recipes. We do this each month and would love to have you join us by posting a photo of your own seasonal dishes with the hashtag #eatseasonal. It’s a fantastic way to share December’s best eats, and we’ll regram our favorites too!
I might not be ready for the farm life, but I’m thinking a goat might still make a decent pet. If the neighbors ask questions, I’ll just take them over a big pan of Butternut Squash Casserole with Sausage and Kale (and maybe some cheese). I’m sure there’s no misunderstanding we can’t resolve over plates of comfort food.
Remind me to bring a second pan, just in case.
Butternut Squash Casserole with Sausage, Kale, and Sage Breadcrumbs
Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
For the Butternut Squash and Sausage Filling
- 3 tablespoons Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
- 1 pound chicken or turkey sausage, casings removed
- 3-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon mined fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 12 ounces kale, Swiss chard, or other hearty leafy green, tough stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion (about 1/2 large)
- 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
For the Crumble Topping
- 3 slices whole wheat bread (or 3/4 cup breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal or polenta
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 large egg
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a shallow 3-quart baking dish with softened butter or cooking spray.
- Prepare the squash and sausage filling: Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown and crumble the sausage until fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Being careful not to burn yourself, wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
- Cook the butternut squash filling in two batches (this will ensure the ingredients brown properly): Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet, then add half of each of the following: the squash, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Sauté until the squash is beginning to brown, then add half of: the kale, the onions, and the garlic. Cook until the kale and onions begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup of the chicken stock, stir, and let cook 1 minute so that the stock reduces slightly. Stir in half of the reserved sausage. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and press into a relatively even layer.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil in the skillet, then repeat the above step with the remaining half of each of the ingredients. Transfer the rest of the filling to the casserole dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is soft when pierced with a sharp knife.
- While the squash bakes, prepare the topping: Place the slices of bread in the bowl of a food processor and pulse into crumbs (if using ready-made breadcrumbs, simply add them to the food processor without pulsing). Add the cornmeal, Parmesan, sage, sugar, and salt. Plus a few times to combine. Drizzle in the olive oil, add the butter cubes, and pulse until crumbly and the butter is fully incorporated. Add the egg and pulse a few additional times, until the mixture just begins to clump together. (Alternatively, you can make in a mixing bowl, cutting in the butter by hand. In this case, you will need prepared breadcrumbs).
- Remove the casserole from the oven, take off the foil, then sprinkle the top evenly with the breadcrumb mixture. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, return the dish to the oven, then bake uncovered, until the bread crumbs are golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.
Don’t miss these other fantastic December #EatSeasonal recipes:
- Sweet Potato Kale Coconut Curry Soup by Kitchen Confidante
- Brussels with Candied Nuts by Oh Sweet Basil
- Pomegranate Martini by Foodie Crush
- Kale and Collard Green Gratin by Vintage Mixer
- Orange Cranberry Bread by Two Peas and Their Pod
- Brussels Sprouts and Gruyere Quiche by Completely Delicious
- Winter Squash Tamale Pie with Harissa by Climbing Grier’s Mountain
- Dixie Salad with Pomegranates by Bless the Mess
- Balsamic Glazed Butternut Squash & Endive Salad by Project Domestication
In case you are still shopping, a fun gift idea:
Give the gift of food, with a little extra flare. At Facebook.com/Pompeian and Pompeian.com, you can create your very own personalized bottle of Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil by generating and printing a customized label. I think I’ll be putting this Butternut Squash Casserole with Sausage and Sage Breadcrumbs on mine. Or maybe my mom would like to see my smiling face each time she sautes? So many possibilities!
I created this recipe and post in partnership with Pompeian as a member of its #PantryInsiders program. As always, all opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting the brands and companies that make it possible for me to continue providing quality content to you!