Sometimes girlfriends have to be a little sneaky.
I’m not saying, “be a ho-ho behind his back,” kind of sneaky, but when it comes to boys and their “dislikes” of certain foods, I’m convinced that they don’t like it “just ‘cuz.”
First, there was cauliflower. It was amongst the many on a list of veg that Roo told me about that he disliked. He said it smelled like something Evil Monkey would leave for us under our bed. While I can’t fault him (I am not a fan of it steamed either), after slicing it thinly, tossing it with olive oil and salt and pepper, then roasting it in the oven, he couldn’t help himself. Caramelized bottoms, silky and creamy insides, the boy didn’t stand a chance.
There were also peas. Peas that he insisted he absolutely hated because of the consistency, taste, and just the plain old look of them. “Why should I put something in my mouth that looks like that?” But after two distributions of peas from our CSA, I knew it was a sign to get Roo to like peas. Pea pesto was the answer. A good quality olive oil, garlic, and farm fresh peas whirred all together in a food processor, made the perfect accompaniment to shelled pasta.
But then there was squash. I unfortunately had a giant swing-and-miss with it this month.
While the oven roasted acorn and butternut squash soup was probably one of my most favorite recipes I’ve made during VeganMoFo, it tasted, well, like squash. It captured the squash in it’s best state: roasted, salted and folded with herbs.
He hated it.
Thankfully all my other squash-loving friends gladly took on the leftovers, but I was left feeling burned. I had been dethroned as the ‘Queen of Sneak.’
I was sad that I didn’t get to see Roo, in typical fashion, nod his head and say, “Babe, this is really good,” while I would just smile and say nothing. (For the sake of your relationship, say nothing. Always. Sitting across from them at the kitchen table while you have, “the church giggles,” though, totes acceptable.) After two bites of the soup, he said “I’m sorry, I just can’t,” and proceeded to pile on the oven roasted cauliflower and broccoli I had made as a back-up, onto his plate.
But, tonight, I’ve reclaimed my throne. This pasta recipe can be tweaked so that it tastes like it’s been folded into a rich, creamy “cheese” sauce, or that it’s been taken straight out of a harvest festival, full of hay rides, auburn leaves, and crisp air. All it takes is editing the amount of pumpkin puree.
The caramelized onions add a lovely luscious component (um hello, when do they not?), that completes this dish. They’re sweet (but not “squash sweet” as Roo would say), almost jammy, and just bring so much flavor to the sauce. I love that the pasta gets folded into something so incredibly smooth and not over-the-top rich. And once it’s eaten with a side of braised kale, you’ll wonder why families don’t have the two together for dinner more often. If there’s anything you need for a frosty night, but aren’t willing to acknowledge that winter is on it’s way (seriously, who wants to do that?), then this is what you need.
Adapted from Simply Stardust
Serves 4 Generously, With Leftovers
2 tablespoons of mild tasting olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter (like Earth Balance)
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 cup of almond milk (or other unflavored, unsweetened non-dairy milk)
1 large onion, diced
6 (for more of a cheese-sauce quality) to 12 (for utter pumpkin mania) heaping spoonfuls (tablespoons) of pumpkin puree
Eighth of a teaspoon of nutmeg
13.25 ounces (a box, like Barilla) of your favorite pasta (in our case, it’s whole wheat penne)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 medium saute pans (or use one, put the caramelized onions into a small bowl to set aside, and clean out the saute pan to use for a second round)
A sharp knife
A large pot
Fill your large pot with water and cook the pasta per the directions on the box. When the pasta is al dente/to the texture that you like, drain the water and place the pasta back in the pot. Set aside.
Add your olive oil to your saute pan. Place the pan on a burner over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply browned (this takes about seven to ten minutes, depending on how hot your burner is). Set aside.
In another saute pan, add the butter (like Earth Balance) and place over a burner on medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour, and stir till the ingredients are combined. Slowly add in the almond milk and stir in until there aren’t any lumps left in the pan. Add the pumpkin puree. Again, six heaping spoonfuls gives you a lovely, rich, “cheesy” quality. More than that will yield and obvious “pumpkin sauce.” As long as you’re not dating Roo, you should be ok to decide how far you want to go with pumpkin. Stir in the pumpkin puree until the ingredients are combined. The sauce will thicken as it continues to cook. I tend to be satisfied with its consistency as soon as I get the pumpkin puree stirred in. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add the nutmeg and the caramelized onions (including the oil that they were cooked in). Stir until the ingredients are combined. At first it’ll look like an oily mess, but keep going, it’ll come together.
Add the pumpkin sauce to the pasta in the pot. Stir till every bit of pasta is coated with the deliciousness. I mean, sauce. Serve immediately.
These make excellent leftovers, and Roo and I love eating it with a side of braised kale. There’s just something magical about mixing greens and “cheesy” pasta.