Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Creamy Squash Pasta

I'll admit, it might be the most glamorous thing imaginable, but it does go schlp, schlp when you squish it around on your plate. It's creamy and it's orange, it's really thrifty but somehow elegant at the same time, and it uses winter squash. It's like a very grown-up take on Kraft Mac-n-Cheese. In short, it's the perfect winter meal for a sick day, a snow day, or just a day when you feel like comfort food.

For me, the biggest plus was the incorporation of squash. I still have FOUR MASSIVE SQUASHES (butternuts) in my cellar, and it's January. Squash really starts to sound un-appealing this time of year, so I'm struggling to use these babies up. Heaven forbid some of that lovely, local, organic squash go to waste!

Oh, and before I forget, the best thing about this recipe? The abbreviation. Squashta. Try it, it's love at first sight.

Creamy Squash Pasta

2 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups pureed winter squash flesh (from approximately 1 medium baked squash)
1/2-3/4 cup toasted walnuts OR roasted salted pumpkin seeds
1 pound cooked pasta of your choice

Warm the oil in the bottom of a fairly large pot. Saute the garlic until lightly brown, then add the cream cheese and seasonings. Keep the heat fairly low to prevent scorching. Stir until the cream cheese is melted and smooth, then add the squash puree. If desired, add a splash of water, milk, or vegetable broth for a thinner sauce. Toss in the walnuts/pumpkin seeds and the pasta, stir, and serve. Makes four generous servings.

Variations: I'm not going to lie. I stole this idea from a Weight Watchers recipe I found online. I liked the idea of blending the squash into a pasta sauce, but scorned scorned scorned the idea of making a "cream sauce" from skim milk and FLOUR. That's what Weight Watchers decreed. And I said, Pah!, because one of my cardinal food rules is: cream sauces should contain cream. I don't have a lot of hard-and-fast food rules, but that one ain't budgin'.

I liked the cream cheese version very much-- it was creamy but still fairly virtuous--but if you'd like to try something different, I suppose a whole range of different dairy products would work. Greek yogurt springs to mind, though I bet nonfat yogurt would work, too (maybe simmered with a little flour to thicken it up). Whole milk would be fine, and of course if we really wanted to get decadent, heavy cream would be divine.

Between this recipe and a batch of "Pumpkin" Muffins (har har, what a fine and sneaky pumpkin-substitute squash makes!), I dispatched the largest of my cellar dwellers. Anyone have any brilliant disappearing-squash recipes out there for me to try?


Stephanie said...

I have the BEST recipe for Butternut Squash Soup! I've made it probably 6 times this fall; my boyfriend says it's the best soup he's ever had. :) You can omit the bacon slices and sautee in olive oil if you prefer a meat free soup!

Butternut Squash Soup
6 bacon slices
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 large granny smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium/large butternut squash, baked, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 32oz carton of chicken (or veggie) stock
2 tbs lime juice
1 1/2 tbs. honey
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 (to 1/2) c. heavy cream

Cook bacon slices until crisp. Remove, reserve drippings. Crumble bacon, set aside. Cook onion & carrot in bacon drippings over med-high heat 5 mins or until onion is tender. Add celery and apple, sautee 5 min. Add garlic, sautee 30 seconds. Add squash & chicken broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat; simmer 20 mins or until carrots are tender. Process in food processor until smooth. Add lime juice, honey, spices and cream. Simmer 10-15 mins to combine flavors. Enjoy!

Walnut Lovers said...

This looks incredible. Thank you for sharing this fantastic post, can't wait to make it. We have to share this with all of our walnut loving friends. It is a perfect way to celebrate Walnut Wednesday. (Just a little fun we have on our twitter page) Thanks again! Happy eating.

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