Sausage, Kale and Butternut Squash Casserole (an oven-full of autumn)

Butternut squash is an ingredient that sounds wholesome and looks vibrant, but admittedly, I avoid eating more than a few bites in most dishes. This changed when Vivian Howard coaxed a little extra deliciousness out of those vivid golden cubes, in her cookbook Deep Run Roots. She adds just the teeniest bit of brown sugar to the squash as it roasts. It’s fall magic ya’ll.

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Sausage, Kale and Butternut Squash Casserole (an oven-full of autumn)
First layer: roasted butternut squash, dusted with brown sugar, salt and pepper.

Vivian’s southern drawl is magnetic, her smile is infectious, and her food—oh, this girl knows flavor. I’m really looking forward to her newest cookbook release in late October 2020.

“Stuffed Butternut Bottoms,” from Deep Run Roots, is a delightful recipe, which I made and loved, but the idea of repeating it made me tired. It’s special to receive your very own butternut bottom stuffed with deliciousness, and it looks fancy too, but if you’ve ever cut up butternut squash, then you know what a beast they are to wrestle with. Multiplying her recipe for a table of 6 was a definite no for me, so I thought about how to transform those flavors into an dish that could feed a crowd.

Sausage, Kale and Squash Casserole (an oven-full of autumn)
Second layer: mild Italian sausage and white cheddar cheese

I thought about it and then I tested it, and it came out just divine. Better still: the leftovers make a delicious breakfast, especially if you add a poached or fried egg.

Sausage, Kale and Squash Casserole (an oven-full of autumn)
Layer three: leeks and kale, sauteed in garlic

While all of these flavors ring with the melody of fall, they are in fact perennial ingredients, so you can enjoy this healthy yet comforting dish all year long.

Sausage, Kale and Butternut Squash Casserole (an oven-full of autumn)
The final layer: Parmesan cheese and buttery, toasted, breadcrumbs.

Pin this for NOW. Thank me later. 😉

Sausage, Kale and Butternut Squash Casserole (an oven-full of autumn)

More butternut squash recipes:

Butternut Squash and Pesto Pizza

More recipes that celebrate fall:

The Cozy Fall Chili Everyone Will Love

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Sausage, Kale, and Butternut Squash Casserole

A vegetable packed, autumnal casserole, perfect for dinner or brunch! Adapted from Vivian Howard's recipe "Stuffed Butternut Bottoms" in her cookbook Deep Run Roots.

Course Main Course
Servings 6

Ingredients

For the squash layer:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1/2" cubes
  • 3 Tbsp Brown sugar
  • grapeseed oil or olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the sausage layer:

  • 1 lb mild italian sausage (bulk not links)
  • 1 cup white cheddar cheese shredded

For the greens layer:

  • 2 leeks thinly sliced in half moons
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch kale (approximately 6 cups), stems removed and leaves cut/torn into 1 1/2-2" pieces
  • 1/3 cup apple juice or apple cider
  • salt

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (plain or seasoned)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp oil or melted butter

Instructions

For the squash:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.

  2. Peel, and cube the squash (pulp and seeds discarded) into ½ inch pieces. Try to make them as uniform as possible so that they cook evenly.

  3. Toss squash with a few Tablespoons of oil, a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and the brown sugar.

  4. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes. Then stir and cook an additional 10-15 minutes. The tip of your knife or fork should pierce the squash easily, but it should not be mushy, or you will have a mushy casserole. Watch it carefully and keep testing it so that you do not overcook it. Set aside to cool.

For the sausage layer:

  1. Heat a skillet (choose a skillet with a lid, because you will need the lid later) over high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add the sausage along with a pinch of salt. Crumble and brown the sausage until fully cooked. Transfer the sausage to a bowl and allow to cool.

  2. When the sausage has cooled, add the shredded cheddar cheese and stir to combine.

For the greens layer:

  1. Reheat the skillet that the sausage was in, and add a tablespoon of butter or oil if there is not enough sausage drippings to cook the leeks in. Cook the leeks, garlic, and red pepper flakes over medium heat, seasoning them with a pinch of salt and pepper.

  2. Once the leeks are softened, add the kale (press it down and cram it in the pan) and then add the apple juice and put the lid on. Allow the liquid to steam and begin wilting the kale. As the kale begins to shrink, open the lid and give it a stir, then replace the lid and let it continue wilting for another minute. You want it tender but not totally soggy. When the volume of the kale has wilted to a controllable level, remove the lid and continue stirring until just about all of the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with another small pinch of salt. Taste the kale and add more salt if necessary.

For the topping:

  1. Pour 1 Tablespoon of melted butter or oil over the panko breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Then mix in the parmesan cheese.*

To assemble the casserole:

  1. In a 13×9 baking dish add the butternut layer first, then the sausage and cheddar cheese layer, then the greens layer. Finally sprinkle over the parmesan cheese and breadcrumb mixture and place the casserole in the oven (uncovered) for 15-20 minutes. This time may vary depending on how long your ingredients have been cooling. Just be careful not to over cook your casserole or your squash will become very mushy.

  2. This is delicious served with garlic bread or texas toast! Or if you are having it for breakfast or brunch, add a fried or poached egg!

Recipe Notes

*You can use pre-grated, but it doesn’t melt very nicely. I regretted using pre-grated when I made this dish for the photos. It also sticks to itself and makes it difficult to portion out the casserole.

If you are making this dish ahead of time, do not add the cheese and breadcrumb mixture. Cover the dish with foil and heat it until warmed through. Remove from the oven, and turn the oven to low broil. Uncover the casserole and add the breadcrumb and cheese topping and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the cheese has melted. 

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