Penne with Acorn Squash and Ham Hock

by Kelly on January 26, 2011

So far my winter resolutions have been going well. I attended a fantastic photography bootcamp.  I also bought an adorable pattern to make a homemade case for my iPad that I plan to put to good use when I have a free weekend.  And now that my oven has been restored to its original glory, I made a fantastic baked casserole: Penne with Acorn Squash and Ham Hock.


Based on a recipe from Cooking Light it combines penne with a creamy béchamel, sweet acorn squash and my twist – cooked smoked ham hock meat.  I had leftover ham hock meat after making ham hock stock with some hocks I had brined and smoked myself.  You could easily include a nice smoked ham or some cooked bacon instead, but I loved the twist the ham hock meat gives.  Even though it takes slow cooking to make it truly delicious, I think it is very underrated as a meat.  It’s smokey and when cooked properly (I slow simmered mine until it was falling off the bone before including it in this recipe) practically melts in your mouth.

The result was incredibly tempting – the creamy sauce goes perfectly with the smokiness of the meat.  The whole effect is satisfying and indulgent, exactly what I am looking for from a winter meal.  I highly recommend it!


Penne with Acorn Squash and Ham Hock
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 5


-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled acorn squash
-Cooking spray
-8 ounces uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
-1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
-1 cup diced yellow onions
-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
-2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
-1/2 teaspoon Season All
-3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese
-3/4 cup chopped, cooked smoked ham hock meat
-1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425 degrees F for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.

Add olive oil to a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Add flour to the pan and cook for 2 minutes to cook out the raw flavor. Gradually add milk and Season All, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts.

Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pasta, ham hock meat, and squash to cheese mixture, tossing gently to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into 5 individual oven-proof dishes or a 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Serve immediately.

What about you? Do you have a favorite casserole you enjoy making?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Blog is the New Black January 26, 2011 at 7:54 am

Looks wonderful!


Bethany January 26, 2011 at 8:13 am

Glad your oven is alive and kicking! 🙂 Acorn squash is amazing — it’s SO naturally sweet. I can imagine it’s incredible in a casserole. My mom used to use ham hock in soups all the time growing up, but I’ve never taken the leap. Since ham is my favorite, I really should get on this!


Elina (Healthy and Sane) January 26, 2011 at 9:01 am

You smoked your own ham? I got a fresh slab of bacon from Stillman’s a few months ago and totally ruined it. I have another little piece in the freezer, would love your pointers!
Btw, I’m hosting a giveaway for a great healthy cookbook. Check it out if you’re interested 🙂


brandi January 26, 2011 at 9:25 am

Anything with squash + ham/bacon is good with me 🙂


Sues January 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Your photos look beautiful! I guess the photography bootcamp is paying off? This looks like the perfect meal for tonight… Another snowy evening in Boston!


5 Star Foodie January 27, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Sounds delicious and very flavorful with the addition of ham hock meat!


Shannon January 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm

i’ve never used ham hock, but i should be a bit more adventurous 🙂 looks delicious!!


CaSaundra February 6, 2011 at 8:42 am

I argree–ham hock is such a great addition to dishes! My grandpa always make a braised ham hock cabbage stew that is beyond delicious! I am loving the sounds of this recipe too 🙂


Carolyn Jung February 10, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Would you believe my husband gets giddy every time I make tuna noodle casserole? Oh yes! Well, it’s not the version I ate as a kid with canned soup in it. Instead, you use quality tuna packed in oil and make your own bechamel sauce. It is pretty tasty, I must say. 😉


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