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You don’t know squash

If pumpkin is my idea of heaven, then its cousin, butternut squash, is not far off.

I didn’t discover butternut squash until a few years ago, when I decided to try butternut squash ravioli at a restaurant. It was love at first bite. Ever since then, I’ve taken to cooking it–a lot–and one of my favorite recipes is one that Giada De Laurentiis had on Giada At Home a few seasons ago.

At first, I had to wrinkle my nose at goat cheese being added to the mix. I was used to eating butternut squash with warm, sweet flavors (cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, etc.), but tangy goat cheese? Eh? I decided to give it a go anyway, because I’d made plenty of Giada’s recipes and they always seemed to turn out delish.

Guess what? This one was no different. It was FANTASTIC. And just because I’m a sucker for trying to get in as many veggies as I can, I adapted it to include one more veggie: another squash cousin (and actually, my favorite of them all), zucchini.

This one’s great for packing on a picnic (or to work) because it’s just as delicious at room temperature as it is warm and fresh off the stove. I do have an ever-so-slight preference for it fresh off the stove, but trust me, it’s still great at room temperature–in fact, that’s how I’ll be eating it later today, when my family and I go to Monterey for a day trip to celebrate my mother’s birthday tomorrow.

Penne With Butternut Squash, Zucchini, & Goat Cheese (adapted from Giada de Laurentiis recipe; serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. uncooked whole wheat penne (or regular penne, if you prefer; I like the whole grain variety :))
  • 1 cup cubed butternut squash
  • 1 medium zucchini, cubed
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste (plus more salt for cooking the pasta)
  • 1 oz. soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp grated parmesan (I do splurge on Parmegiano Reggiano for this; the flavor is hard to duplicate with the other kinds of parmesan)
  • 1/2 tbsp grated pecorino romano
Preheat oven at 400 degrees.
Prep your veggies by tossing them in oil, salt, and pepper. Lay them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and caramelized.
In the meantime, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Toss in a tablespoon or so of salt, then put in the whole wheat penne. It will take about 10 minutes for whole wheat penne to cook (7-8 minutes for regular penne), so just keep an eye on it so that you don’t overcook it. You’ll want it to have a bit of a bite still (“al dente”).
While the pasta is cooking, put the goat cheese, grated parmesan, and grated pecorino in a bowl. Once the penne is ready, use a slotted spoon to take the penne out and toss with the cheeses. Don’t throw away the pasta water. You will need these in a bit, to thin out the cheese sauce a little.
By now, your veggies will be ready. Take them out of the oven, and toss them with the pasta and the cheeses. Your goat cheese will have melted into a gooey delight, but the sauce will be fairly thick. If you’re ok with the thickness, you’re now done (and ready to eat :)). If you’d like a little bit of a thinner sauce, use some of the pasta water (spoon in a tablespoon at a time) to thin it out, until it’s the consistency you’d like.
And there you go! If you want to add just a bit more “pizzaz” to it, sprinkle with a few toasted walnuts on the top for garnish (and healthy crunch), and fry up a few sage leaves in butter. The buttered sage is divine and will add even more depth to the already wonderful flavors of the dish.
Penne with butternut squash and zucchini

Butternut squash, zucchini, and three different kinds of cheeses--how can you go wrong?

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About writejenwrite

Silicon Valley marketer by day, novelist-in-training by night--running addict, foodie, bookworm, pop culture enthusiast, and aspiring philanthropist in between.

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