Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Penne with butternut squash and goat cheese

I've had this recipe waiting for a while.  Why the delay?  I wish I had a better reason than "I got married" but that's it.  I've already let myself go.  (Sorry, Matt.)

But really, it's a funny story.  Working ahead and writing up posts to share with you while I'm at sea, I saw this, and thought, "Whoh!  I remember that!  I thought I'd posted that already.  Oops, guess not.  Huh... I could go for that again."  So, I indulged my id and made it again, without photography this time.  

You'll have to forgive me for the Thanksgiving napkin that snuck its way into the picture.  Along with myself, I've apparently let my napkins go, too.

Tsk tsk.

Anyway, I give you penne with butternut squash, goat cheese, and walnuts.  Loaded with flava!

To so many folks, the arrival of winter means the departure of bounties of produce that once overflowed at the market.  I'm usually leading one of those packs, lamenting about strawberries and tomatoes and fresh squash.  But, this year, I decided that I could do better.  All I needed was a little creativity and an open mind to take advantage of what was out there for the taking cooking.

Butternut squash, I can't tell you how happy it has made me to see you getting the press you deserve.  It's so versatile, hearty, and a total power food -- low in calories, high in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins A and C!  But, who cares about that, right?  It just tastes so darn good.  Sweet like pumpkin but can totally adapt to a savory role as well. 

Add in some goat cheese -- you know how I can't resist goat cheese in any form -- and I couldn't believe how this dish won me over!  Except, well, I can.  I love all of the parts, so the sum of said parts was guaranteed to be great.

A perfect bite with a little bit of everything: creamy goat cheese, crunchy walnuts, chewy pasta and sweet butternut squash.  Who needs boring pasta and red sauce when you can have this for the ultimate comfort food?  Yes, please!

Penne with Goat Cheese and Butternut Squash
(adapted slightly from Giada's recipe)
-serves 4 to 6

Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 yellow onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
Olive oil, for drizzling
Ground black pepper
1 pound penne pasta
1 cup (8 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Spray a baking sheet, liberally, with vegetable oil cooking spray.  Mix the squash and onion together and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Bake for to 40 to 45 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

While the squash mixture is cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water.

Put the pasta, goat cheese and 1 cup of pasta water in a large serving bowl.  Toss until the cheese has melted and forms a creamy sauce.  Add the squash and onion mixture, then the walnuts.  Toss well and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Garnish with Parmesan and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

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