Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Perfect Contrast

As I've spent more time in the kitchen, trying new ingredients, dishes, and techniques, my palate has grown. I've come to like new ingredients, flavors, and textures, and sometimes even look for them in my meals. When I saw Giada DeLaurentiis make this recipe last year, I knew it was a dish I had to make. It had a new ingredient (butternut squash), a contrast in flavors (sweet and savory), and a contrast in textures (creamy and crunchy).

And this meal did not disappoint!

I did alter is slightly, though, enhancing both the tang and creaminess. (At least I think so.) And the best part is the roasted squash and onion makes a wonderful side dish all on its own, if you're looking for an easy accompaniment for a main dish. What's better than two for one?

Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese
Adapted slightly from Giada DeLaurentiis
Cook time: 1 hour
Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 1 2-lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup (about 4 oz.) mascarpone
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Put an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Spray a baking sheet, liberally, with cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. 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 40 to 45 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  4. 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, mascarpone in a large serving bowl. Stir until the cheeses have melted and forms a creamy sauce. Thin sauce with pasta water if necessary.
  5. Add the squash and onion mixture, walnuts, and basil. Toss well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Note: To toast the walnuts, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly toasted, about 6-8 minutes. Cool completely before using.

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