Monthly Archives: November 2013

11/25/13

Perfect Baked Butternut Squash Pasta

Oh butternut squash… how I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Roasted.

Baked.

Mashed.

In ravioli.

And now tossed with pasta and baked with a crispy, golden, cheesy crust!

Why haven’t I thought of this sooner???

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Baked Pasta

This dish is truly spectacular. My family loved it and so will yours!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound rigatoni (or other tube-shaped pasta like Penne)
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk (of course, if you like it extra rich, you could substitute heavy cream or half and half)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups grated fontina cheese
  • 1/3 heaping- cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions.

Before we get into step-by-step directions, let’s talk about the squash for just a minute. Because how to break down a butternut squash is really a fine art.

So, first make certain you have a very sharp and sturdy knife and a safe cutting area. Make sure your cutting board does not slip. That would be disastrous!

Okay. So first thing I do is lop off the 2 ends to create sturdy, flat bases. Then I peel it.

squash 1

See what a sturdy and secure cutting surface that makes?

After peeling, I cut it in half lengthwise, from top to bottom.

squash 2

Look at that beautiful color! Perfect for this time of year.

Next step is to scoop out all those seeds and guts! We don’t want any of that in our pasta dish.

squash 3

Okay, now you are ready to cube! Cube in about 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces roughly and place in a large bowl.

squash 4

Cut into discs and then cubes for even roasting.

squash 5

Crush a few cloves of garlic and throw them right in! Top off with some olive oil and a little sprinkling of both salt and pepper for added flavor, but not too much as we will season the sauce itself  later.

squash 6

Spread out onto prepared a greased half-sheet pan and roast at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until squash is fork tender and has nice color. I did toss half-way through cooking time.

squash 8

You won’t believe how amazing it all smells while roasting.

squash 9

Set aside and let cool about 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, cook 1 pound of dried pasta according to package direction to al dente, meaning the pasta still has a bit of a bite to it. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

pasta

Remember it will cook more in the oven in just a bit!

To prepare the sauce, place the slightly cooled butternut squash in a blender and blend it until smooth with milk, salt, and pepper.

squash 10

Ready to blend!

squash sauce

Perfectly smooth. {Resist the urge to get a spoon and eat at this stage. Or not.}

Toss with pasta and add the cheese.

pasta, sauce, & cheese

I love fontina. It is ultra creamy, melts beautifully, and has great nutty, mild flavor that is perfect with the squash.

Pour and spread out into a 9X13 baking dish that has been generously sprayed so it doesn’t stick.

in the pan

Does this not look like everyone’s favorite mac n cheese? Sneak this in on your family, friend, and especially kids. It’s mac n cheese + the added benefits of a great winter squash.

Top with your mixture of panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.

topping

ready to bake 2

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until perfectly golden and bubbly all the way through.

done

 Yum! 

Serve immediately with a great tossed salad, green beans, or a fresh fruit salad for a meatless main dish. However, this would be a fantastic side dish to meat or poultry as well.

Next time, I am going to make it with browned butter and sage… such a classic flavor enhancer to butternut squash. I will let you know how that turns out too!

Have a delicious day!

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11/21/13

San Antonio in pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I want to tell you all about my wonderful trip to San Antonio in pictures.

I will endeavor to say as little as possible.

Bear with me. You know that is not a strength of mine.

We landed in Texas mid-morning on Saturday and right away- my first adventure. My very first rental car!

I know, I know. This may feel like a small milestone, but when you are navigating strange roads in a new city on new roads (some of them so new they don’t register on your GPS), it is certainly an adventure. 🙂

We stayed at the Marriott right on the River Walk in downtown. Such beautiful views from floor 15!

view 2

view 1

Literally all of San Antonio sprawling at your feet ready for exploration. So, what do you do first?

Find delicious Mexican food! And find it we did.

casa rio 1

Casa Rio opened on the River Walk in 1946 and consistently has been run by the same family since. I love family-run restaurants, ones with storied histories, great location, and ones with delicious menu items.

casa rio umbrellas

I ordered ‘The Regular’, the regular favorite since 1946. How can you go wrong with that.

casa rio menu

casa rio meal

And the answer is… you can’t.

That chili con carne was to die for. Trust me, there was enough material on this plate for a whole blog post. But, I digress.

So, we walked around downtown and found ourselves at the Alamo.

San Antonio Trip Nov 2013 013

“In memory of the heroes who sacrificed their lives at the Alamo…”

San Antonio Trip Nov 2013 014

A truly heartbreaking and amazingly courageous tale of true and lasting American spirit.

San Antonio Trip Nov 2013 019

Christmas card pic maybe?

And after having been up since 5:00 am, we lost Dad back to the hotel room for a nap, so Mom and I took to the streets for a little shopping time. It was bound to happen eventually.

la villita

La Villita is the cutest little village of San Antonio home to arts, crafts, pottery, and great little historic shop fronts right on the River Walk.

San Antonio Trip Nov 2013 004

She’s fun.

And Day 1 was in the books.

Day 2 dawned early and Dad got an adventure streak in him and declared “let’s go driving!” After talking to the concierge, we settled on a little know area of the hill country, a quaint German town called Fredericksburg, the very heart of Texas Wine country. Sounded fun, was 40 minutes outside of SAT, so we loaded up.

fredericksburg 1

The streets were just as I expected them. Wide, sprawling, western-style shopfronts, with a rumbling sky rolling in.

Sweet little shops lined the streets, coffee shops, western wear, and a precious little public library I wished had been open to the public. Would have loved to see what was on the shelves.

fredericksburg street 2

fredericksburg street

And on these quaint streets, we found exactly what you would expect to find. A great little fusion French/German/ Southern bistro aptly named The Bistro. And we parked there for a while around lunchtime.

bistro

bistro 2

Lovely lunch of fried chicken, mashed taters, crispy collards, and the most addictive jalapeno honeyed cornbread I  have ever tasted. Wow!

bistro meal

For dessert, we took homemade Smore cookies to go, drove around a bit of the wine country, enjoyed the rolling hills, and hit the road back to San Antonio just in time for a nighttime stroll.

The Alamo is just majestic all lit up at night.

alamo at night

An appopriate ending to my tales from our fun-filled San Antonio. It was a great Veterans Day weekend celebration!

And speaking of Veterans Day, that was the purpose of my visit to the great state of Texas! I served alongside dozens of coworkers as we served men and women from the military in a city-wide MAD (Military Appreciation Day). We served all active duty, retired, and veterans that represented the USA in many foreign lands. I am eternally and humbly grateful for their service to our great nation. I was honored to serve and minister to those that have given so, so much expecting very little in return.

May God continue to bless America!

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