Formerly Trendy Pasta

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This pasta is delicious. I mean its FREAKING good. Just believe me. I call it ‘Formerly Trendy’ pasta since its got all the major food trends that struck it hot for a short time recently: kale, bacon, butternut squash – all things that made it into a lot of new dishes and on many restaurant menus in the past two years. But…trendy or not, these ingredients are some of my favorite (minus kale which I can only eat cooked or chopped into tiny bits – I think it tastes like tree leaves might taste).

The pasta is sweet, savory, smokey, creamy, and has a tiny bit of spice from the red pepper flakes. It is one of my favorites. It reheats SO well. This recipe makes about 8 healthy portions. My mother was in town helping me with the new baby as I head back to work part-time…and we nibbled on it for lunch and dinner for a couple of days. No-one ever was tired of the pasta – which means its pretty damn good. 🙂 Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 package uncooked ziti (short tube-shaped pasta)or other short tubed pasta of your preference
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 8 bacon slices
  • 1 large yellow onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine squash and 1 tbps olive oil in a large bowl  or in a Ziploc bag with 1/2 tsp salt and the 1 tbsp black pepper; toss well. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with tin foil (or can use cooking spray). Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until squash is tender.

3. On another baking sheet with foil, lay the bacon flat and cook for 20-30 minutes (cooking times will vary greatly based on the thickness of the bacon). Flip the bacon every 5 minutes to ensure its fully cooked and not burnt.

4. While the butternut squash and bacon are in the oven cooking, place the chopped onion in a saute pan on the stovetop. When the bacon is done cooking, pour off about 2 tbsp of the bacon drippings into the pan with the onion.

5. Cook pasta 7 minutes or until almost al dente. Add kale to pot of pasta (with water) during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta mixture into colander and then pour into large mixing bowl.

6. Pull butternut squash from oven and place into bowl with pasta mixture.

7. Pull bacon from the pan and place onto paper towels to dry and crisp. Once crispy and dried – chop into small 1/2 inch pieces and place into bowl with butternut squash and pasta.

8. Turn the onion/bacon drippings (grease) pan to medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until onion is translucent. When completely cooked, pour into bowl with pasta/kale/butternut squash/bacon.

9. Combine 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Bring the remaining 1 3/4 cups of the chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Add flour/broth mixture to the boiling broth. Then add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to the broth. Cook and whisk 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir/whisk in 1 cup of light sour cream. Then stir in 1 cup of the cheese – continue to stir until melted.

10. Combine squash, bacon, pasta/kale mixture, cooked onion mixture, and cream/cheese sauce in a large bowl; toss gently. Coat a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray; then pour in the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the pasta. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.

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Chopping kale – keeping the stems out of the chopped mixture

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Butternut squash in oven to roast

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Raw bacon entering oven to cook

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Cooked butternut squash

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Cooked pasta & chopped kale mixture

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Cooked mixture of pasta/kale in big mixing bowl

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Added butternut squash to pasta mix in large mixing bowl

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Cooking onion in bacon drippings

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Final cooked onion/bacon drippings/red pepper flakes added to large mixing bowl

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Cooked bacon resting on paper towels

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Chopped bacon added to mixing bowl

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Cooking the cheese sauce

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Final mixture of all elements: kale/pasta, bacon, squash, onion, cheese/cream sauce

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Pasta dish entering oven

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Final product – YUMMO!

 

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Butternut Squash Gratin

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FullSizeRender_4I make a mean potato gratin, but I will tilt my hat to the ingredients more than I will my cooking skill. Its not hard to make a delicious dish when you have cheese, cream, potatoes and then some more cheese. This summer we had a backyard full of butternut squash. Beware if you choose to grow it – as it will take OVER your lawn. It is a blessing for me though since it kept the grass from growing meaning less yard work and lots of yummy yummy squash. Butternut squash is one of my favorite veggies and this gratin was born from the question I posed while staring at the buckets of it in my basement: “if gratin is good w/ potatoes – is it just as yummy with squash’? The answer – IT IS. Its actually BETTER in my opinion.

I used the exact same process as I did with my potato gratin, but instead I used squash and added sage to balance the sweetness of the roasted squash. It added a sweetness and depth to the dish that you can’t get with just potatoes. Plus the bright orange is just so beautiful. Its a perfect dish for any parties or hosting you do this winter.

I made this for Thanksgiving at my in-laws house in Omaha. It was a HIT! I also made one for e close friend who injured her shoulder and couldn’t cook this holiday, apparently they loved it as well – so you’ve got a winning dish here. Enjoy!

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me and my husband getting ready to feast!

 

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The table is ready!

 

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our spread for Thanksgiving!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Two medium sized butternut squash – peeled, deseeded and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 fennel bulbs – thinly sliced and core removed
  • 1 yellow onion – thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp dried rubbed sage
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup shredded gouda cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a larger baking dish. 9×13 should work and you can always use two smaller pans if needed
  3. Remove the stalks from the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the core and thinly slice the bulbs crosswise. Keep a few of the fennel fronts, the pretty green feathery leaves – for garnish.
  4. Melt butter and oil in large saute pan on medium heat
  5. Add in fennel, onion garlic, salt & pepper. Cook for 15 minutes stirring often until all items are very soft and starting to caramelize. Turn off heat and remove from burner.
  6. Put squash into a large bowl
  7. To the squash in the bowl, add cream, milk, salt, pepper, 3/4 cup of gruyere and 3/4 cup of gouda cheese. Stir well to combine.
  8. Next add in the fennel, onion, garlic mixture to the bowl and mix all again. Sprinkle again with a pinch more salt and pepper.
  9. Pour mixture into the baking pan(s).
  10. Press squash mix down into the pan, don’t be forceful, the point is really to smoosh down/arrange so they are in level rows as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect by any means.
  11. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup gruyere and 1/4 cup gouda on top
  12. Place in oven for 45 minutes. At the 45 minute mark check squash with a knife – if you can insert easily w/ no ‘crunch’ or stiffness. The knife should insert easily into the squash but it shouldn’t be mushy. If still crunchy, let cook another 10 minutes and check again. Repeat until the dish is cooked through.
  13. The top of the squash should be a crispy golden brown cheese layer, if its not crispy enough – turn the broiler on low and set timer for 2-3 minutes. Keep a close eye so it doesn’t burn!
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Sliced butternut squash

 

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Sautéing the butter, fennel, garlic and onion

 

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Sautéing the vegetables until they caramelize

 

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CHEESE!

 

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Mixing squash, fennel/onion mix, cream and cheese

 

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Mixing all ingredients before putting in the oven

 

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Final product!

 

 

 

 

Butternut Squash Soup

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So I’ve explained how much I love butternut squash right? Well, I LOVE it. Plus I grew a ridiculous load of it in my garden this summer and have like 13 huge squash to use so if I didn’t like it I’d be in a bit of trouble. Butternut squash soup is likely my favorite way to eat squash, but don’t quote me on that. I may change my mind tomorrow.

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Now, to be clear this is NOT a soup that is mealy, fibrous or baby-food like in its texture. I prefer creamy/silky soups and this falls into that category. This is not a complicated process re: skill or technique, BUT it does take a bit of time. I’d say you will likely spend about 1 hour total cooking time meaning ‘on your feet active in the kitchen time’. But its WORTH it and you’l end up with about 3 mason jars full of soup to eat that week, freeze, give to neighbors and be all Norman Rockwell-esque during the holidays – its your soup…go nuts.

The best part about this soup is how it tastes. The second best is how you can top the soup with whatever you want – I used goat cheese crumbles and toasted walnuts this time around. I’ve used things like fried sage, parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, toasted pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds, the world is your oyster. So lets get to work!

Equipment:

  • High powered food processor, high powered blender (Vitamix-like), or immersion blender
  • If you do NOT have a food processor or immersion blender, you will need some sort of low powered blender and a fine mesh strainer.
  • I used a high powered food processor AND the fine mesh strainer. I like my soup extra smooth. Using the high powered blender alone would’ve been ok, I tasted the soup and it was really good texture, but I did the extra work anyways.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium size butternut squash (about 4 lbs)
  • 1 cup buttermilk or half/half (you could use cream but I tried to be ‘light’)
  • 2 small granny smith apples
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 gloves garlic minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth (canned or fresh). You can use vegetable stock if you prefer.
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 10 whole fresh sage leaves
  • 2 tsp salt measured + more on the side for use
  • 2 tsp fresh ground pepper measured + more on the side for use

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Peel, seed, and cube the squash into 1″ cubes.
  3. Line two baking sheets with foil
  4. Put all squash in a bowl. Sprinkle with some of your ‘on the side’ salt and pepper.
  5. Melt 2 tbsp of butter and pour into bowl. Mix well and spread all squash on the baking sheets
  6. Place in oven for 20 minutes. After cooking for 20 minutes, with a spatula flip the squash/move around a bit. Cook for another 20 minutes or until they are VERY tender, easily pierced with a fork or a knife. The fork or knife should go into the squash like its butter.
  7. While squash is cooking, peel the apple, core it, seed it and chop into a medium dice (about 1/2 inch)
  8. Peel the onion and chop into a medium dice (about 1/2 inch)
  9. Peel and mince the garlic
  10. Pull squash from oven.
  11. In a large dutch oven or stock pot, melt the other 2 tbsp butter and toss in the onions, apples, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
  12. After another 5 minutes when onions are beginning to soften, toss in the sage leaves. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  13. Add in the squash to the onion/apple mix and continue to cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often.
  14. Add in all water and chicken stock.
  15. Bring to a boil.
  16. Lower to a simmer for about 20 minutes.
  17. Pull from heat and stir in the half/half.
  18. Working in batches, put spoonfuls of the soup mixture into the blender until its about half full. Leave the smaller center lid off and cover with a dish towel (to allow steam to release).
  19. Blend for about 15 seconds or until smooth. It may seem very thick in the first batch or two, but you still have a lot of mixture to work with and the majority of the liquid comes at the end. Patience friends.
  20. Pour the blended soup out of the blender bottle and either into a large pot OR you can first run it through a mesh strainer to give it one more ‘get rid of clumps’ round. I usually taste it to test the texture so I can decide what I want to do.
    • If you DO decide to run it through a strainer that is easy! Just hold the strainer in your left hand and pour in the soup with your right. Grab a spatula and stir the soup around the strainer until its all pushed through. Then rinse the strainer so its ready for the next batch.
  21. Continue steps 18-20 until all soup is blended, strained (if you prefer) and into the new pretty pot of soup.
  22. Add the measured salt and pepper…tossing in more as you like.
  23. If you want the soup any thinner, you can add more stock or milk…just add a little at a time so it doesn’t dilute the flavor too much, or make the soup too thin.
  24. Serve immediately so its still hot, or pour into mason jars (once cooled) to eat later or eat another day.
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About to pour melted butter on the squash and mix. it. up.

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Squash about to be roasted!

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Squash roasting in the oven

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Cooking apples, onion, sage, garlic in butter

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Adding roasted squash to the onion/apple/sage mix

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Simmering and almost ready for the blender

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About to blend the soup

 

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Straining soup after its been blended

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Straining the soup

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Final soup in large pot

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Final product served w/ toasted pecans, goat cheese and breadsticks

 

Butternut Squash Roast

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Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables. If you haven’t tried it you are missing out! It is so yummy! I use it in pasta, sauces, soups, salads, and its great just on its own. This recipe really highlights the squash and is super duper simple. Its only got 6 ingredients!! Just in time for Thanksgiving, here is a delicious ooey gooey delicious butternut squash roast recipe.

Ingredients:

  • One large butternut squash
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan regiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons ground dried sage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Peel butternut squash. Get through all the peel and any veins in the peel – get down to the super 100% orange part
  3. Cut the ends off the squash and cut the stem/neck away from the bulb portion
  4. Cut the stem in half and cube into 1 inch pieces
  5. Cut the bulb in half and remove all seeds/gunk inside (gunk is a technical term)
  6. Lay the bulb halves flat side down and slice into 1 inch rings…and then into 1 inch cubes. This doesn’t have to be perfect, some of the bulb angles will be ‘off’ because it was a round shape
  7. Put all cubed squash in a deep glass baking dish
  8. Pour in the cream and mix well.
  9. Add in salt, pepper and sage – and continue to mix until all cubes are coated in cream and the sage.
  10. Sprinkle in 1/4 of the cheese and mix yet again.
  11. Place dish in oven for 30 minutes
  12. At 30 minutes, pull from oven and stir well yet again.
  13. While squash is out of the oven, test a few pieces of squash by inserting a fork. The fork should easily insert and not be firm. It should feel like a fully cooked potato. If not done, put back in oven for another 10 minutes and continue this cooking until the squash is cooked through.
  14. When the squash is fully cooked, sprinkle the rest of the parm/reg cheese on top and put back in the oven for about 3 minutes until melted.
  15. I like to turn on the broiler for an additional 1-2 minutes to get the cheese topping bubbly and brown.
  16. Pull from oven. Let rest for about 5 minutes. Serve!
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Butternut squash, bulbs and necks of vegetable – ready to chop

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Getting the gunk and seeds from the squash

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Butternut squash, ready to chop

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Butternut squash in baking pan

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All ingredients in baking pan – pre mixed and pre cooking.

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Squash mixed in pan w/ all ingredients – ready for oven

 

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Final product!

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Final dish. Steak, squash, asparagus.