I’ve had two butternut squashes taking up shelf space in my kitchen for the past couple of days. Thoughts of throwing them into another soup and maybe even a cake crossed my mind, as every time I went to make a cup of coffee, there they were.
One of my favorite after work dinners as of late has been pumpkin pasta, and when I made it again on Tuesday, I asked myself, why not a pasta dish with butternut squash? They were both from the same vegetable family, and have a lovely mellow flavor with a hint of sweetness. The pasta dish was also a way to use a winter squash variety as a main component, something that Roo insisted he disliked. But the sneakiness paid off, and like a kleptomaniac, I was absolutely addicted to the idea of getting away with it.
Yes, he is so lucky to have all. of. this. (crazy.)
There are many ways to prep butternut squash, but I prefer roasting, as I can allow it to cook while I work on the rest of the meal. Roasting also brings out a great flavor in the squash, as the sugars in it naturally caramelize at high temperatures. Of course, Roo’s main complaint about squash is that it is too sweet, in a dish he believes should be savory. While I knew roasting the butternut squash would bring out its natural sugars, balancing it out with something bright and acidic, like freshly squeezed lemon juice, was a just another trick I had up my sleeve. I could not wait to plate up my little brainstorm for Roo and just smile, (for the sake of the relationship, never say I told you so. Smiling though, totes acceptable.) eagerly waiting for him to tell me it was delicious.
As I’ve said in the past, I love the element of greens swirled in with a creamy pasta dish. Braised kale isn’t the end all, as you could easily add roasted broccoli or even cauliflower to this and make it just as delicious. The kale however, works quite well, as the liquid you cook it in can be used to thin the pasta sauce if needed. However, if you are using a sturdy pasta like penne, then thinning out the sauce may not be necessary (I used spaghetti as that’s all I had). Also, you may just like thick sauce! As always, cooking is something I love that people can use as an expression of themselves. All of our tastes are different, and it’s up to you to use your own senses of smell, taste and sight, to decide what you’d like the final meal to be like.
Pasta Sauce Adapted from Oh She Glows
Braised Kale Adapted, a little, from My Recipe
For the squash
One small butternut squash, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups uncooked)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 pinch of fine sea salt
For the kale and sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
8 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of red pepper flake (this is a bit of heat to be shared for both the kale and butternut squash pasta sauce, so if you’re sensitive to spice, start off slowly, with half a teaspoon)
For the sauce
Three quarters of a cup of cashews
1 cup of unsweetened unflavored almond milk (and extra if you’d prefer to thin out your sauce with this)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
4 – 6 tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast
Half teaspoon of dijon mustard
Half teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning
Quarter teaspoon of ground tumeric (optional)
Pepper to taste
1 bunch of kale, leaves pulled off from stems and torn into easily edible pieces (make sure to wash it well!)
One and a half to 2 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)
One box (about 12 ounces) of pasta (I would recommend something like a penne, something substantial to stand up to the thick sauce, ie not spaghetti…don’t make my mistake!)
Reserved liquid from braised kale
A medium sized mixing bowl (can hold about 4 cups)
A cookie sheet (line with parchment paper if you hate cleaning dishes)
A large saute pan
A sharp knife
A food processor
A big pot
Place the oven rack to the middle position in your oven. Preheat the oven to 400F.
In a medium mixing bowl, add the chopped squash, olive oil and salt. Toss (I used my hands) until the ingredients are well combined. Place the tossed butternut squash onto your (lined) cookie sheet, and roast in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how hot/temperamental your oven is. Check on it halfway though, flipping the squash to ensure both sides get browned.
Pour the olive oil into your large saute pan. Place the pan on a burner over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion, and stir into the olive oil so that all of it is well coated. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned.
While your onions are cooking, throw your part of your pasta sauce together. In a food processor, add the cashews and process until the nuts become a fine crumb (like corn meal). Add the almond milk, lemon, salt, nutritional yeast, mustard, italian seasonings, tumeric (if using), and pepper to taste. Process the ingredients till smooth. Set aside (in the food processor).
When the onions are lightly browned (oh no, did you forget the about the onions?), add the garlic and red pepper flake. Stir until well combined. Cook, stirring occasionally for about another two (until the garlic becomes lightly browned) to four minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and add half of the caramelized onions, garlic and red pepper flake to the pasta sauce in the food processor. Set the pan back on the burner, and give the pasta one or two pulses to mix the ingredients back together.
Now it’s time to add the kale and “let the magic happen” (I love the sound kale makes in a sizzling hot pan). Add the kale in batches (ie only adding enough kale to form a single layer in the pan), tossing it around in the ingredients, covering it in the oil, onion, garlic goodness. When all the kale has been incorporated (and wilted), add the broth. The liquid should reach halfway up your greens. Again, toss the kale in the pan so that it’s been splashed around by all that goodness in there.
When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to very low to keep the liquid at a simmer. Cook the kale until it’s no longer bitter and tender. The broth will be reduced to more than half. When the kale is done, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Cook the pasta according to the box’s directions. During this time your squash should be ready.
Add the squash to your food processor and process until the sauce is smooth. Taste. Does it need more salt? Pepper? Adjust the seasonings to your liking.
This. Sauce. Will. Thicken.
So don’t fret dear reader, if it’s not super thick for you yet, just wait. It’s going to happen.
When the pasta is ready, remove it from heat, drain and rinse with cold water.
No seriously, do this or else your sauce will break when you add the hot pasta to this.
Add the pasta back to the pot. Add the sauce and kale to the pasta. Mix. Is your pasta sauce too thick? Add either the liquid from the braised kale or almond milk to it. Taste. Do you need more seasonings? Adjust accordingly.
If the pasta is too cold, you can warm it up in its pot on a burner over very low heat.