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This dish is pure comfort food at its very best. It combines all of my favorite comfort foods, pasta, bechamel sauce, sausages and cheese and is cooked like a gratin thereby giving a delicious crusty, cheesy topping. What more could you want? It is inspired from a northern Italian recipe. In the original version, large pasta shells or conchiglioni are used and the sausage stuffing in placed in the shells but if you cannot get hold of them, feel free to use any large pasta such as penne, cavatappi, fusilli, rigatoni or even rotini.

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Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeds discarded, chopped into small cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
10 sage leaves, chopped
6 pork sausages (I used Toulouse sausages)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
350g / 12oz pasta
50g / 2oz butter
50g / 2oz plain flour
850ml / 1 ½ pints milk
50g / 2oz parmesan, grated
100g / 4oz grated cheese (emmental, mozzarella mix)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F
Place the butternut in a saucepan with a little water and cook for about 10 minutes until soft
Heat the oil in a frying pan
Add the sage leaves and sizzle for about 1 minute
Remove the sausages from their skins and divide into small balls about the size of a marble or hazelnut
Add the sausage balls to the pan and fry until golden brown
Add half the butternut to the sausage mixture and set aside
Mash the remaining butternut with the nutmeg and any liquid in the pan
Cook the pasta according to package instructions
Melt the butter in a saucepan
Add the flour and stir, cook for 1 to 2 minutes
Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly
Cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium low heat until you have a smooth, thick sauce
Add the mashed butternut, parmesan and seasoning
Spread the sauce and butternut mixture on the bottom of a large, shallow baking dish
Drain the pasta
Place the pasta on top of the sauce
Pour the sausage and sage mixture over the pasta
Scatter the grated cheeses over all
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown
Enjoy!

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