Need to know what to do with all that leftover butternut squash from Thanksgiving? I've got you covered.
Because this pasta dish — a fantastic weeknight-friendly dinner — is a great recipe for when you just can't look at another leftover in its original form one more time. I mean, how many times can you have pie for breakfast (don't answer that, that was a trick question)? OK, maybe we can handle the pie. But how many times can you have straight up reheated roasted squash?
That's exactly my point.
In this recipe, we give butternut squash a new life with pasta and a trio of cheeses — Parmesan, soft goat and Monterey Jack. The squash contributes color and some bona fide nutritional value, while diced caramelized onions provide texture and a nice flavor. This can be served as a main course with a salad and a vinegary dressing to balance out the creamy richness of the dish. It also makes a luxurious side dish to a roasted chicken or some grilled or pan-seared chops.
Using the cooking water from the pasta does a couple of things in this recipe. The water contains some of the starch from the pasta, so it helps thicken the sauce and bind it to the cooked pasta and vegetables. It also eliminates the need for an excessive amount of half-and-half or cream. And, no, I'm not saying that this pasta isn't indulgent... I'm just saying it could be even more indulgent.
In the unlikely event you don't have any leftover roasted squash — or would like to make this other times of the year — I've written the recipe to start with uncooked squash. But if you do have leftovers, just skip that step of the recipe and substitute 3 to 4 cups of cooked squash.
CHEESY PASTA SHELLS WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH
Start to finish: 45 minutes
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 4 cups of chunks)
2 medium yellow onions, diced
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1 teaspoon dried sage
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound pasta shells
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup crumbled soft goat cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Heat the oven to 400 F.
On a rimmed baking sheet, mound the butternut squash, onions and sage, then drizzle the oil over everything. Toss to coat, then spread into a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 35 minutes, or until the squash is tender and everything is nicely browned.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
Return the empty pasta pot to medium-high heat and add the reserved cooking water and the half-and-half. Heat just until little bubbles appear around the edges of the pot. Whisk in the Parmesan, goat cheese and Monterey Jack until the cheeses are melted. Return the pasta to the pan and stir until coated with the sauce. Add the cooked squash and onions and toss to combine. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot.
Nutrition information per serving: 650 calories; 250 calories from fat (38 percent of total calories); 28 g fat (14 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 55 mg cholesterol; 500 mg sodium; 78 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 24 g protein.
Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook." She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/