Baked Rigatoni with Squash, Kale and Bacon

Baked Rigatoni

It was too easy to say this cider pairs well with barbecue and grilled sausages.  We wanted to come up with a recipe that honored the earthiness of our Smoked Pumpkin Cider.  This is not the mac and cheese from your childhood!  You will love our cider with big bold flavors of bacon, pickled peppers and cream.  Serve with Smoked Pumpkin Cider.

Yield: 6-8 servings

2 pounds peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
Extra virgin olive oil, to coat
2 large bunches kale (preferably lacinato) destemmed, torn into large pieces and rinsed
1 pound rigatoni (penne or large shells would also work well)
12 ounces bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup Tieton Cider Works Smoked Pumpkin Cider
2 cups whole milk
½ cup cream
Pinch nutmeg
Butter for the baking dish
2- 4 tablespoons of chopped pickled hot peppers (like Mama Lil’s Sweet Hot Peppas or eq)
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Toss the squash with enough oil to lightly coat.  Spread the squash out on a parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt. Roast until squash is tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, 25-30 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the kale: bring a large pot of generously salted water to the boil.  Blanch the kale for about 1 minute. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon and place in a colander (do not drain the water from the pot).  Run the kale under cold water to stop it from cooking further.

Cook the pasta in the same water until al dente.  Drain and run under cold water to stop the pasta from cooking further.

In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned but not completely crisp.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate.  Set aside, reserving bacon fat.

In the same sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat over medium heat.  Add the garlic and shallot and a generous pinch salt and pepper. Cook the garlic and shallot until just tender and fragrant, taking care not to brown them.

Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.   Whisk in the cider.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring often, and then add the milk and the cream.  Whisk until the béchamel is smooth.  Add a pinch of nutmeg.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Generously butter a 13”x9”x2” baking dish.  Spread the cooled pasta over the bottom of the baking dish.  Scatter the kale and roasted squash over the pasta.  Add chopped pickled hot peppers to taste.  Spoon the béchamel over the vegetables and sprinkle the cheese on top.

Bake the pasta, uncovered, until heated through and bubbling, about 35 minutes.