I had a plan to make spinach and butternut squash lasagna roll-ups last week. But then I decided to add chicken so that Jasper would be more likely to eat it (note that this plan failed, ha). And then I thought it would be good to make my own spinach whole wheat noodles, which turned out to be too fragile to roll up, especially with the heavy chicken added. So it turned into a regular layered lasagna instead, and I'm not even sad. The colors were so pretty, and it was gooey and cheesy and filling.
So here's where I made a mistake - I thought I would be clever and puree the spinach in the food processor instead of the blender before adding in my flour in order to reduce the number of dirty containers. Except that the food processor didn't really puree the spinach very well. I even had a moment where I stopped and thought I should transfer it to the blender and decided against it, *sigh*. All those little flakes of spinach made the dough very fragile and difficult to work with, but I stuck it out.
The noodles turned out fine (and they certainly tasted good) when cooked, but they were still too fragile to roll (and not very pretty).
So I just layered them instead and all was well. Now, remember earlier this week when I talked about having leftover butternut squash? Well, this is where it went. I pureed the roasted squash and shallots together to make a sauce. A little of that went on the bottom of the pan, then a layer of noodles.
This is a perfect winter weeknight meal. Buy some pizza dough from the store, throw on some delicious winter veggies, finish with smokey bacon and mozzarella. Done. Awesome.
Remember how I only needed a little bit of squash for last week's Carbonara? Well, this is what I did with the rest of it - cubed it up and roasted it with shallots, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. I only used about half of this squash for the pizza - the rest of it? Stay tuned.
Ugh, blurry picture. Sorry. Anyway, top some rolled out dough with slices of smoked mozzarella, the roasted squash, some kale rubbed with olive oil, and some halfway cooked bacon. I bought some fresh dough from Whole Foods because I really didn't feel like making my own, but I wish they sold wheat dough. That would make things easy AND healthy. Also, I really should have split this into 2 pizzas. It was almost too big for my stone and I ended up with a lot of crust.
In the super hot oven, the bacon finishes cooking, the kale becomes crispy, and the cheese gets all melty and golden. Yum. The smoked mozzarella is really key here, it goes so well with the bacon and the kale - so don't skip it!
By now, you guys should have figured out that I love butternut squash and pasta together. I could practically rename my blog "The Butternut Squash Blog". So when I saw someone grate butternut squash so that it dissolves into their velvety carbonara sauce, you know I was all over that. Especially because I had a nasty cold and wanted comfort and didn't care that the pasta wasn't whole wheat.
The original recipe used buccatini, which I love, but I couldn't find any at the store. I did see these gorgeous long fusilli noodles though. I have to say, after having cooked with them twice, I wouldn't actually recommend these. It takes longer to cook than advertised and the inside is still crunchy (not al dente - crunchy), while the outside has gotten soft so that it breaks apart and doesn't stay long and beautiful. Sigh.
Anyway, grate up that squash (just a little chunk, not even a whole one) and toss it into a pan with a little rendered bacon fat, butter, and garlic.
After a bit of a hiatus, Melissa (Smells Like Brownies) and I are getting back to our weekly vegetarian lunches. Last week we tried this amazing soup recipe packed with veggies. It is warm and comforting, with lots of flavor and texture - plus it's really easy to make. It's also both vegan and vegetarian friendly. And gosh, isn't it pretty?
The soup starts out with sliced squash (we used acorn) and tiny cubes of turnip simmered in water until tender. At first I thought that one small squash and one turnip wouldn't be enough, but they turned out to be plenty! So don't go overboard and think that you need to get more/bigger. The cooking water then becomes the base for the broth and miso, tahini, and lemon zest are added to round it out.
You can garnish the soup however you like, but we stuck with the original recipe and used avocado, chives, toasted nori, and toasted sesame seeds.
The soup can be served over a grain, and we choose to try out buckwheat. We are both avoiding white rice for health reasons and thought this grain-like seed would be fun to try. Unfortunately it cooks to a porridge like consistency instead of individual grains. So I would recommend barley or brown rice instead.
So I got this combination of ingredients into my head and couldn't stop thinking about all the ways I could use them. Pasta, pizza, tarts - the list goes on. I decided to caramelize a big batch of onions, roast a big squash, and use them all week in a few different dishes.
First off, I peeled and cut up a large (4 lb) butternut squash and laid the cubes out on a baking sheet. I drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. Then I roasted them at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. I used some right away, and stored the rest in an airtight container in the fridge.
For the onions, I bought one of those bags that has about 5 onions in it, sliced them all, and threw them in a large pan with olive oil. After they turned translucent and soft, I turned the heat down from med-hi to med-lo and let them caramelize. This will take anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes. About halfway through, I added a few sprigs of thyme. Once they were really brown, I added a splash of sherry to de-glaze the pan and removed the thyme stems. Again, I used some right away, and stored the rest in an airtight container in the fridge.
Oh my gosh, you guys. This might be my favorite butternut squash pasta since the life-saving mac and cheese.
Sheets of homemade pasta filled with roasted butternut squash, apple, onion, sausage, and three cheeses; topped with a creamy sage bechamel. It's totally swoon worthy.
The filling is a little complicated, but totally worth it. While your butternut squash is roasting in the oven, mix up and brown your sausage mixture. Did I mention that you are creating your own sausage, so you can adjust the spices to your liking? And you can be sure that there are no weird preservatives or sugar? Awesome. Anyway, next you saute some onions, garlic, and apple. Plus a little white wine - aww, yeah.
Oh my gosh this filling. It's insane. You may want to make extra to use in other ways. I'll talk about that later.
I'm not really sure how to do food styling for mac and cheese - as you can tell from this photo. Oh - a chunk or orange stuff, yum. Well don't let my bad photography fool you - this mac and cheese is the bomb. It's the ultimate comfort food, and I should know.
You see, I lost my cat last month to illness. Other pet owners out there might understand this - he and his (adopted) brother were my first pets as an adult. That is a whole different situation from childhood pets, or even pets you get later as a family. I literally think of my boys as my children, so this was extremely difficult for me. It was also very sudden. Animals, as you may know, hide their sickness so that they won't be perceived as weak. Which means that by the time they start acting sick, it is often too late. In our case, we took him in the same day he was acting weird and found out that night that there was nothing we could do. He was gone the next day.
The grief affected me like the flu - I had fever, chills, and nausea. The only thing I could stand to eat was macaroni and cheese, and after a couple of days of my husband making me the boxed stuff, I finally started cooking again. I made this butternut squash mac and cheese and lived off it for a week. It was definitely very comforting.
It's ooey gooey with both cheddar and Gruyere, with a bit of caramelized onion, pops of salty bacon, and sweet butternut squash - partially mashed so that there is sweetness throughout, but also some chunks here and there. I even splurged and used regular, white pasta so that I could get my favorite shape - gemelli.
The top is sprinkled with more cheese and buttery breadcrumbs. Perfection. This is possibly the most delicious food ever. So whether you are sad or you just like macaroni and cheese, go dive face first into a bowl of this stuff. You won't regret it.