Fall Squash and Yellow Cauliflower Gratin with Pasta

This dish can be served as a side dish or entrée. I use Trenne pasta but any short tubular pasta will do including the ubiquitous elbow shape. I like to use more vegetables than pasta. Serve with a green salad and a Napa Valley wine.

Yields 4-6 portions as a side dish and 2-3 as an entrée.

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
small head of yellow cauliflower, cut into florets to yield 3 cups roughly chopped, not too small
1 small or 1/2 of a medium size butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and grated or chopped in a food processor to yield 4 cups
2 cups béchamel sauce (see below)
2 ounces Trenne pasta or tubular shape- cooked in salted water until al dente (firm to the bite), drained, and lightly coated with olive oil-if made ahead
1-1 ½ cups sheep's milk cheese like dry aged Idiazabal, Pecorino, Pepato, or Gruyere, finely grated
2-3 leaves fresh sage
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Heat butter or olive oil in a large sauté pan and slowly sweat the onions until tender and just beginning to caramelize. Add the cauliflower, sage, and squash, and cook several minutes seasoning with salt and pepper until the cauliflower is tender.

Transfer to a casserole or baking dish. Add the béchamel. Add 1 cup of cheese and stir in the cooked pasta. Mix well and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Pop in the oven at 375° and bake until hot and bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.

Béchamel Sauce

1 cup cream
2 2/3 cups whole milk
¼ large onion, cut in several slices
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, taste before adding whole amount, or several shakes of Tabasco sauce
½-1 teaspoon white pepper, taste before adding whole amount
several shakes Worcestershire sauce, to taste
freshly grated nutmeg, several scrapes across the grater or a micro plane tool

Combine cream, milk, onion and bay leaf. Heat slowly and scald the mixture. In a separate pot, make a roux by melting the butter over low heat, then slowly stir in the flour increasing the heat but stirring constantly until all the raw flour flavor and taste are gone.

Add the milk and cream mixture slowly to roux, stirring constantly to insure there are no lumps. Cook on low for 30 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn or scorch. Do not let it boil. Add the salt, cayenne pepper or Tabasco, white pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and nutmeg. Pick out the bay leaf before adding the sauce to the vegetables.