Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese

In my house opening a jar of Prego over penne is usually the way we go. If we want to get fancy, we stir in some pesto. If we want to blow your mind, we open a box of Cucina Fresca frozen penne mac and cheese, throw it in a Pyrex and take credit for it. No, probably not. But I'm tempted...if you haven't had Cucina Fresca macs, they are the bomb.com, plus they are local (to Sea-town) like Beechers, easily rival Beechers in flavor and claim to be handmade using natural ingredients. BAM! Why aren't I getting paid for this?

Since I couldn't open a box of frozen mac this time, I opted for this simple recipe from Food Network: Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese. The inspiration behind this choice is merely the fact that I had a package of pre-cubed fresh butternut squash (thank you QFC for helping me cheat) that I needed to use. So I searched "penne butternut squash" and this recipe is the first one I landed on. It had me at goat cheese.

The result: It was like I had ordered a dish at some fancy restaurant where you think the chef is really brilliant for combining these flavors that you, in a million years, wouldn't have considered. And it was EASY! My favorite. The only downside: my toddler gave it a thumbs down and I'm not surprised. It's a pretty sophisticated flavor with the goat cheese, besides, if it's not Prego, a banana or a Ritz cracker, he's not interested anyway.

Next time I'm going to add in some ground Italian sausage just to see if I'm as brilliant as a top chef. Thank you Amber, for making me think outside the (frozen mac and cheese) box this month!

Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese


Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 (2-pound) butternut or kombucha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
Olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound penne pasta
1 cup (8 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (see Cook's Note)
1 packed cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan


Put an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Spray a baking sheet, liberally, with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

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 to 40 to 45 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

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. Drainand reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water. Put the pasta, goat cheese and 1 cup of pasta water in a large serving bowl. Toss until the cheese has melted and forms a creamy sauce. Add the squash andonion mixture, the walnuts and the basil. Toss well and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnishwith Parmesan and serve.

Cook's 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 to 8 minutes Cool completely before using.

Missy's Note:
When toasting walnuts in a toaster oven, watch them carefully...

My fav gf brand pasta so far.
"Dearly Beloved," we are gathered here to marry some yummy ingredients. I bought this cheap bottle of wine for Halloween and forgot about it! So I opened it up with dinner and we LOVED it. Nice, smooth red. Just fyi, in case you ever come across this funky bottle.
Just before the magic happens.
Trivia: What smells like burnt popcorn, but isn't? Burnt walnuts. (Luckily, most were salvageable.)
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  1. Missy this looks great! Butternut squash has always kind of intimidated me - I'll need to look in the frozen aisle for it, why didn't I think of that?

  2. Look over by the bagged lettuce, they sometimes have pre-cut fresh fruit or seasonal cut veggies and they're fresh not frozen. Love those!

  3. What a great combo of flavors - I can't wait to try this recipe! I'm also pro at burning nuts when I try to toast them ... you look away for just one sec and it's all over!

  4. Love goat cheese! This looks great - and I agree. Someone should pay all of you for your glowing recommendations! I think the sausage would be the perfect addition to this dish. It's funny about the thumbs down from your kiddo... he needs to expand his palate! (haha... this from me, who's daughter yells "More hot dog!!!" pretty much every meal... :/

  5. Ha! I just watched this episode of Giada yesterday! It did look amazing even though she talks with her mouth full :)

  6. I made this for dinner tonight and it was easy and tasted great. I added sautéed red bell pepper. Liam even liked it.

  7. Jamie I'm so glad you tried it! AND the kiddo liked it - that's awesome! Day 2 leftovers, Jbud magically liked it too. So I'm labeling it kid-friendly since it's been tested and approved. :)