1medium winter squash, such as butternut, sliced lengthwise, (about 2 lbs)
6-8strips of bacon, such as Niman Ranch cured applewood smoked
3medium red onions, sliced thinly, (10 oz.)
1cupbreadcrumbs from 1-2 slices crusty boule
2 1/2cupswhole milk
8oz.grated cheese, such as extra sharp white cheddar, gruyere or goat gouda
2tablespoonsminced fresh sage leaves
1bunch collard greens, stems removed, leaves halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2" ribbons
Preheat the oven to 400º.Place the squash halves cut side down on a lightly oiled sheet pan and roast until soft and collapsed in places, about 1 hour. Remove and let cool enough to handle. Scoop out and discard the strings and seeds, and remove the flesh from the skin. Set 1 cup of flesh aside, and chop the rest into approximately 1" chunks. You should have about 2 cups.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350º.
Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until browned and crispy, turning once or twice. Remove to a paper towel to drain, then slice into 1" squares, or lardons.
Pour off all but a tablespoon or two of the rendered fat. Saute the onions over medium-low heat until golden, soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan with a metal spatula. Remove the onions to a large bowl and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of the fat to the pan, and fry the breadcrumbs, with a few pinches of salt, until crisp. Scrape out of the pan and set aside.
Place the 1 cup of squash in the skillet with the milk and simmer for a few minutes, then mash or puree smooth. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the collards and cook until crisp-tender, a few minutes. Fish out with tongs or a slotted spoon or skimmer, cool enough to squeeze out excess moisture, and add to the the bowl with the onions. Dump in the penne and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Strain and toss with the onions and collards.
Add the squash chunks, milk mixture, cheeses, sage and bacon and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt or what have you if necessary.
Brush a 9x13x2" casserole with some of the you-know-what fat. Spread the pasta in the pan and scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over.
Bake at 350º until bubbling and golden, about 30 minutes.
Nutritional values are based on one of eight servings.