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Baked penne with squash, eggplant, and mushrooms

Serves 6

Olive oil (for the dish)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound penne
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound peeled butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium eggplant, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced
Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 pound mixed mushrooms (button, shiitake, portobello), stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 cups commercially prepared tomato sauce

1. Have on hand a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. In a large soup pot of boiling salted water, cook the penne, stirring often, for 9 minutes. Drain the pasta into a colander. Transfer it to a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

3. In a steamer insert in a saucepan half filled with boiling water, steam the squash in a covered pan for 5 minutes or until almost tender.

4. Set the oven at 450 degrees.

5. Toss the eggplant with enough oil to coat it lightly. Transfer it to the baking dish. Roast the eggplant, turning several times, for 25 minutes or until it is tender.

6. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees.

7. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When it is hot, add the onion, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and garlic; cook 5 minutes more.

8. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until they release their liquid. Turn up the heat and continue cooking, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until the liquid evaporates.

9. Remove the eggplant from the baking dish and add it to the bowl of pasta. Gently fold in the squash, mushroom mixture, ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, Parmesan, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and plenty of salt and pepper.

10. Pour the remaining 1 cup of tomato sauce into the baking dish. Add the pasta mixture, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

11. Bake the pasta for 40 minutes or until the cheese on top melts and turns golden at the edges and the dish is hot in the center. Kristina Nies

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