Butternut Squash In Your Pasta
Years ago, prepping food for my annual Oscar party, butternut squash pretty much made me want to cry. I was trying to cut it, didn’t really have the knives for it, and I was just hoping not to sever a finger. Now, I’m a little more comfortable with it, and I discovered that I love it. Especially roasted. Given that I also love pasta and avocado and feta, I thought I’d get all of these guys together in a room for a healthy and delicious lunch.
First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While it’s heating up, start with your butternut squash. This particular one was courtesy of Finley Farms, an amazing organic producer from Santa Ynez that I get to visit weekly in Hollywood. With a large, sharp knife, cut the ends (the stem-like area) off. Now carefully slice it the long way, which should give you two halves. While you’re going to have to deal with the seeds later, I first take a vegetable peeler and remove the hard outer skin. Once that’s done, you’ll have two sections on each piece: one that is solid squash, and the other that has both a little solid area and then the seeds and their surrounding “gunk.” Salvage as much solid squash as you can and cut it into little cubes (maybe 3/4″ or so, but if you’re not precise, don’t sweat it).
Butternut squash seeds can be toasted, and while I have not yet tried to do it, it’s next on my to-do list. So clean and save the seeds if you’d like, and discard the rest of the surrounding gunk. Once you have the squash cubed, toss it into a small bowl and toss it in enough olive oil to coat it, and season it with salt and pepper. I seasoned mine with a bit of dried basil as well. Once the oven and your squash are ready, spread them on a foil-covered baking sheet and put them in for about 30 minutes, perhaps a touch longer.
While the butternut squash is roasting into deliciousness, you have time to prep everything else. Heat a pot of generously salted water until it’s boiling and then add the pasta of your choice. I prefer penne. Ideally, time the penne to finish a minute or two after the squash. Now that your pasta and squash are working…
Place an avocado (cut into small pieces–I do this by removing the pit and cutting each half lengthwise and then again across like a little grid, then scooping it out) in a bowl and hit it with a little sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Next, add your feta cheese (as much as you like–I use perhaps a little under an ounce, taking a knife point to crumble it up before dumping it in). Dump your drained pasta–and crack a bit more pepper on your pasta–and your squash (which will caramelize a bit and should be soft) on top. These hot items should help melt the feta a bit. I’ve been adding perhaps a spoonful of pine nuts for texture. Fresh herbs at this point are a welcome addition–I like to chop a little fresh dill, but if it’s in season, basil would also be wonderful. Toss with about a tablespoon of good olive oil, and you’re ready to eat a healthy and delicious meal.
Small to medium butternut squash (or go bigger and have multiple portions)
One avocado (Hass, Reed or whatever is available)
Feta cheese, perhaps a little under an ounce
Penne, or the pasta of your choice
Pine nuts (though I’m going to try toasted squash seeds next time, as pine nuts are so expensive!)
Salt and pepper
Optional: Want a little more heat to contrast the sweetness of the squash? Try either a) seasoning them with dried chili flakes either before you roast them or b) seasoning your entire bowl with them afterward.