Good gourd, do we love today’s recipe! If you’re looking for a great side dish for your Thanksgiving table, try our Cheesy Butternut Squash Tomato Casserole. We mix fresh pasta, tangy Lifeway Kefir, creamy butternut squash, and crisp Roma tomatoes with a perfectly gooey cheese medley made from a blend of Parmesan and Lifeway Farmer Cheese. Cooking with Lifeway gives this dish a pleasant, smooth flavor and helps make a casserole that simply cannot be beaten. It also provides you with plenty of nutrition thanks to the vitamin A in butternut squash, along with fiber. Tomatoes provide an ample dose of the antioxidant lycopene for the immune system and skin support, and more. Get the recipe below and make this comforting warm dish this week!
Cultured Dairy: The Nutrition Benefits You Actually Need to Know
With increasing research linking the correlation between probiotics, gut health, and immunity, it’s no secret that the integrity of our gut is vital to our health. Although additional factors such as stress, antibiotic usage, and individual health conditions can contribute to the condition of our gut, a focus on healthy food choices is one of the easiest ways to support the microbiome.
Several studies have shown a strong association between the gut-brain-microbiota. Probiotics introduced to the gut have been found to support immunity, improve allergies, and improve digestion.
Studies have shown that reduced diversity of healthy gut bacteria during early years is associated with an increase in food allergies during school-age years. In addition, kefir made from whole-fat milk helps absorb key nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Vitamin K is important because it helps your bones absorb calcium. It’s important to know that kefir contains a special trio: vitamin D, K, and calcium – all three crucial elements to support bone health. Lifeway Farmer Cheese is also a great source of all these nutrients, just in a different format for all the cheese lovers out there.
Prebiotics + Probiotics = A Healthier You
Prebiotics are non-living, non-digestible carbohydrates naturally found in a variety of fiber-rich plant foods. Your body actually can’t digest prebiotic fiber, but it’s what probiotics feed off of to remain actively working in your digestive system. They help the digestive system by promoting the growth of good bacteria. Prebiotics and probiotics work together in balance to make sure our digestive system stays on track and regular. Research has found that consuming a variety of prebiotic and probiotic food sources may improve your body’s natural functions, including both your immune and digestive systems.
- 1 cup, divided Farmer Cheese
- 3 cups of fresh (or frozen) butternut squash (about 1 large or 2 small squashes)
- 1 regular size box of fusilli or rotini pasta
- 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (no salt added)
- 4 fresh Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup Organic Plain Whole Milk Kefir
- 1 cup shaved (or shredded) Parmesan cheese, divided in half
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning (no salt) or use dried oregano
- 2 tbsp. dried parsley or 3-4 tbsp. fresh parsley
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring water to a boil for pasta. Then cook pasta following package instructions. Drain, but reserve 1 cup of pasta water; set aside.
- Meanwhile, place oil in a large saucepan or stock pot on the stove, and add the onions and cook until translucent and soft, slightly caramelized. Add diced fresh butternut squash pieces, and cook 3-4 minutes until lightly browned (alternatively, you can roast it beforehand in the oven if you prefer and just add it here to the pot once roasted).
- Stir in tomato sauce, half-and-half, Lifeway kefir, and the reserved pasta water (but not the pasta yet). Then add 1/2 cup of Lifeway Farmer Cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, diced Roma tomatoes, salt, pepper, sage, Italian seasoning, and parsley; bring to a simmer. Cook and stir 2–3 minutes until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens.
- Stir in the cooked, drained pasta, and mix to combine until the pasta is well-coated. Place combined mixture into a 13- x 9-inch baking casserole dish; top with remaining 1/2 cup Lifeway Farmer Cheese and remaining Parmesan cheese, spreading evenly throughout the top. Bake 12–15 minutes until the topping has browned and the mixture is bubbly. Serve with warm French toast or another option, such as more cooked veggies which are great with this high-protein meal!