Cheesy Eggplant Pasta Bake

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When I was a kid my dad would occasionally make eggplant for dinner– he’d slice it lengthwise, put some kind of seasoning on the cut side, and roast it in the oven until the insides went all brown and mushy. I thought it looked disgusting. This was not aided by the fact that Dad would tell us that the brown part in the middle was actually a giant worm that lived inside every eggplant and was extra tasty when cooked. Ugh!

That story put me off eggplant for a while, honestly, and while I eventually recovered enough to enjoy eggplant parmesan and Chinese-style eggplant with spicy bean sauce and pork, I never really felt the urge to make eggplant myself.

That being said, when my local farmer’s market had a $1/lb. deal on eggplant, I decided it would be worth a shot to get myself a bagful. After a little digging online, I found this recipe, originally from Giada de Laurentiis but re-blogged by Smitten Kitchen. I tried making it with a few substitutions (canned tomatoes instead of the more expensive freshly roasted cherry tomatoes, omitting the pine nuts because I didn’t have any in my pantry), and it was pretty darned good! I decided to tweak it a little more to make it amazing, and the resulting recipe is something I’m definitely going to put into the rotation.

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Butternut Squash with Gouda

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Okay, so “Butternut Squash with Gouda” isn’t exactly the most exciting name for this dish, but I couldn’t think of anything better so there it is. Besides, while the name may be boring, the recipe is anything but– it takes a few simple ingredients and combines them into a rich, flavorful, autumn-centric (new word!) dish. You get tender chunks of butternut squash, mixed with sweet and savory caramelized onions, a hint of sage, a creamy strata of gouda cheese, and it’s all topped with a crunchy layer of toasted panko. It would make a fabulous side dish for this year’s Thanksgiving.

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