Giada De Laurentiis’ Baked Penne with Squash and Goat Cheese

Decadent and satisfying, this baked pasta casserole from Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis is packed with squash and goat cheese.

It’s a unique baked vegetarian entree that melds a symphony of flavors for a filling and delicious meal.

Food Network personality Giada De Laurentiis speaks at a lectern in this photograph.
Giada De Laurentiis | Mike Windle/Getty Images for Sundance

De Laurentiis opts for goat cheese for good reason

The chef in her book Eat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and Out explained her reason for choosing goat cheese most often when it comes to using dairy products in her meals.

“For many people, dairy is inflammatory because it contains sugars in the form of lactose, and if you don’t produce the enzymes necessary to break down those sugars, it can result in bloating, gas, and related gastric problems,” she writes. “Even if you are able to process lactose, you may be sensitive to the proteins in dairy, resulting in — once again — stomach woes.”

With a little detective work, De Laurentiis has discovered that “the proteins in dairy products made from sheep’s and goat’s milk differ somewhat from those in cow’s milk, and for that reason some people find them easier to digest.”

The chef’s recipe is a quick, healthy meal

The Simply Giada star’s casserole dish is an easy dish that calls for unsalted butter, chopped shallots, red pepper flakes, all-purpose flour, whole milk, goat cheese, shredded mozzarella, peeled and sliced delicata squash, penne pasta, grated Parmesan cheese, and chopped broccoli rabe.

Its topping is made with panko breadcrumbs, olive oil, and kosher salt.

The base of the sauce for the dish is a bechamel sauce, made with the flour, butter, and whole milk, all of which serve as a “thickener” for the bechamel. It’s very important, De Laurentiis says in the Food Network video for this recipe, that “the milk is room temperature. What you don’t want is cold milk out of the fridge because it seizes up and then you don’t get a nice, smooth mixture from your bechamel.”

The chef chooses delicata squash in this recipe because “it’s not so big and it’s not so hard to cut through. Butternut squash is awesome, I love it, but it can be a little more labor-intensive because you’ve got to peel it and do all of that.”

Get the complete recipe, video, and reviews on Food Network’s site.

De Laurentiis’ cheesy casserole is a hit with home cooks

The chef’s vegetarian meal earned praises from reviewers who chimed in on Food Network’s site.

“I thought this was going to be super rich with all the different cheeses but it wasn’t overly rich and it was delicious,” one person wrote.

Another home cook added, “I made this dish for my family and we all loved it. My husband is not a huge fan of Broccoli Rabe so I used fresh spinach instead. I have been obsessing for more so am going to make it again tonight. I can’t wait!”

Lastly, one reviewer reported the meal got thumbs up from their youngest critics: “I have made this multiple times and my whole family LOVES it! My kids were skeptical at first and then they went back for thirds!”

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