Winter root vegetables are still available in this area, though the quality is starting to suffer as we near the end of the winter stores. I’ve passed them by for weeks now, waiting to find one that still looked good and felt firm, but perhaps I was a little too choosy with a few that I looked at. I finally found one last week that looked like a winner, and I excitedly brought it home with a plan to surprise Michael with a different spin on baked pasta and hopefully create something that my picky little eaters would enjoy. Michael really liked it and took some to work for lunch for several days. My toddler devoured it and asked for more and created some great photo opportunities with the orange sauce all over his face, hands, hair, and clothes! (I’ll save him future embarrassment by not posting those photos here.)
The sauce reminded me of the soup I made last fall, another squash dish we really enjoy. We like the sage and thyme paired with squash, though I’m not so fond of the “woolly” kind of sage I find in this area. I need to find a plant or some seeds for a type that has a smoother texture for my tastes. The thyme came from our kitchen garden.
Roasting the squash before making the sauce gives it a slightly nutty flavor that we really like, though if you can’t find a good one at this time of year you can use an equal amount of frozen winter squash instead. To make this a vegan dish, use vegetable stock and soy milk and sprinkle the top with fresh bread crumbs.
This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging founded by the talented Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen. This week’s host is Kel from Green Olive Tree, so be sure to check out the round-up when it’s posted next week.
large knife or cleaver
rubber mallet, from the garage is fine
baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil and lightly coated with olive oil
3-quart pot with lid
8-quart pot with lid
9×13 baking pan, lightly coated with cooking spray
1 small butternut squash, about 2 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs sage leaves, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
3 sprigs thyme leaves, minced (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth or light vegetable broth
1-1/2 cups low-fat milk or soy milk
fresh ground black pepper
16 ounces penne pasta
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese or fresh breadcrumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Stand the squash on the large end. Use a large knife or cleaver and cut in half from the stem to the bottom. If you have a rubber mallet, you can use it to tap the blunt side of the blade to help push the knife through the squash. Place the cut sides down on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the skin can be easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes.
3. Remove from oven and set aside until it is cool enough to handle. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and put it into a bowl. Mash the squash until it’s smooth.
4. In the 3-quart pot, heat the olive oil and saute the shallots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until they soften. Add the mashed squash, sage, stock, and milk. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm while cooking the pasta.
5. Reduce oven heat to 350° F.
6. In the 8-quart pot bring water to a boil. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente, not too soft. The pasta will absorb some of the liquid from the sauce in the oven, so don’t overcook it. Drain well and put back into the pot.
7. Pour the sauce over the pasta in the pot, stirring to mix well. Pour sauce and pasta into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 15 minutes, until the sauce is a little bubbly and the cheese is a light gold color. Serve hot.
Other Squash Dishes You May Enjoy