Cheesy Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash & Greens

My kids love the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe’s. (It sells out daily- so they are clearly not alone!) This vegetarian comfort food dish seemed reminiscent enough to be a crowd-pleaser. 😉 I liked that it incorporated leafy greens too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I modified the method and proportions. I also added a poblano chile, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Nice.

Yield: Serves 6

  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded, ribbed, and diced, divided (or 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound rigatoni, penne, or other tubular pasta
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided
  • 4 packed cups greens (I used 2 cups turnip greens (sliced into 1-inch ribbons) and 2 cups baby spinach)
  • 8 oz (1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size chunks
  • 1/3 cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley and tender stems, roughly chopped, for garnish
  1. Bring a large covered pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente, 3 to 4 minutes less than the package instructions. (It should be a little too firm to the bite.) Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides and a tight-fitting lid (or a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add the diced onion and half of the diced poblano chile, season with salt, and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the cubed squash and season with salt, cumin, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every minute, until squash becomes browned in spots and feels just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection.)
  7. When the squash is just tender, add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to an active simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft and easily mashable, 10 to 12 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat, then use the back of a wooden spoon to crush about half of the butternut squash and leave the rest chunky. Season the squash to taste, keeping in mind that salty Parmesan will be added soon.
  9. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the remaining 1 cup of reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Stir vigorously to combine.
  10. Stir in the greens one handful at a time until each addition wilts slightly.
  11. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, the mozzarella, and the remaining diced poblano chile. Place in the oven and cook until the top is melted and browned in spots, 12 to 15 minutes.
  12. Top with minced cilantro and serve.

Escarole, Pear, Parmesan, & Basil Salad

A fellow member of my CSA shared this recipe as a wonderful way to use the escarole and basil in our share. I loved it! The original recipe was published in November- I do think that this would be a terrific salad to serve on or around Thanksgiving or as a special winter salad. It was also great in July. 😉

The recipe was adapted from epicurious.com, contributed by Mindy Fox. I modified the proportions and used my favorite mustard vinaigrette instead of the suggested vinaigrette. I also used a Bartlett pear, our favorite, instead of Comice or Anjou. I loved the crunch from the hazelnuts.

Yield: Serves 6 as a side

For the Salad:

  • 1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 to 6 T hazelnuts, coarsely chopped, or more, to taste
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 large head of escarole (about 3/4 pound), leaves cut into 1/2-inch ribbons and then torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large or 2 small Bartlett, Comice, or Anjou pear(s), cored, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, shaved (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) basil leaves, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • flaky sea salt

For the Dressing:

  • 1 shallot, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium. Add hazelnuts and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden, 2–3 minutes. Season with a pinch of kosher salt. Remove from heat; set aside.
  2. While the nuts cool, make the dressing. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a mini food processor and process until smooth. Set aside. (I transfer the dressing to a jar.)
  3. Place escarole, pear slices, Parmesan shavings, basil, and about 1/3 of the reserved hazelnuts in a large bowl.
  4. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the prepared salad.
  5. Gently toss until salad is evenly dressed; season with sea salt and additional pepper, to taste. (You will have extra dressing to reserve for another salad.)
  6. Top with remaining hazelnuts. Serve.

Shortcut Chicken & Dumplings

More weeknight comfort food! This dish uses rotisserie chicken meat and store-bought gnocchi as shortcuts to create a close match to traditional chicken and dumplings. It was quick to prepare and very tasty.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Alexa Weibel. I incorporated my CSA parsley, leeks, carrots, and collard greens. In addition, this soup could easily gobble up many other vegetables such as frozen peas, fennel, squash, parsnips, or mushrooms. We ate it with a green salad. Great.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 to 5 cups 1/2-inch ribbons of collard greens or kale, ribs removed (optional)
  • 2 medium carrots or 8 ounces butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium leek, trimmed, white and pale green portion halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup) (can substitute 1 large shallot, if desired)
  • 2 medium celery stalks, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 2/3 cup)
  • additional vegetables such as frozen peas, or diced parsnips, fennel, or mushrooms, optional
  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (optional)(I omitted it)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 (16 to 18-ounce) package fresh or shelf-stable store-bought gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s 17.6-ounce gnocchi)
  • 1/2 store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded, meat torn into bite-size pieces (about 2 to 3 cups shredded meat)
  • fresh tarragon, parsley or dill, for garnish

Vanilla Pear Sour

This festive seasonal cocktail was absolutely fabulous. My husband and I enjoyed it prior to our quiet Thanksgiving feast this year.

This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver via francoiselaprune.com. I poached thin slices of pear so that I could use them as a garnish. I may poach even larger slices next time. We preferred it with a little bit less alcohol so I noted a range in the recipe below.

The delicious pear syrup can be made in advance, making this perfect for Thanksgiving or a party. We used the leftover syrup to make more cocktails! 😉 It could also be drizzled over ice cream.

Yield: Makes one drink (plus additional Vanilla Pear Syrup)

For the Vanilla Pear Syrup: (makes enough syrup for approximately 10 drinks)

  • 1 Bartlett pear, cut in half or quartered, cored, & cut into thin slices
  • 200 g (7.1 ounces, 1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 200 ml (7 ounces, scant 1 cup) water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

For the Cocktail:

  • 30ml (1 ounce, 2 T) Vanilla Pear Syrup
  • 30ml (1 ounce, 2 T) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 44 to 50ml (1.5 to 1.75 ounces) vodka
  • ice cubes
  • poached pear slices, for garnish
  1. Add the pear slices, sugar, water, vanilla seeds with vanilla bean pod to a small saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Let the poaching liquid infuse and cool down for another 30 minutes.
  3. Strain through a fine wire mesh strainer, reserving the poached pear slices for garnish. Keep pear syrup in a jar in the refrigerator; it will keep for 5 days.
  4. Combine the lemon juice, vodka and 30ml of the vanilla pear syrup into a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass with ice.
  5. Garnish with a thin pear slice (or two).

Note: This cocktail was also wonderful with Meyer lemon juice. (I used the juice of my very first lemon from my Meyer lemon tree!) 🙂

Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

This was casserole was truly a one-dish meal. It is so loaded with vegetables, I didn’t feet the need to serve it with a salad or other green on the side. 🙂 We enjoyed it as our celebratory St. Patrick’s Day dinner this year. The “meaty” combination of lentils and mushrooms in this dish made my meat-loving family members happy. Don’t worry… they had corned beef sandwiches for lunch too.

My riced-potato topped casserole was filled with lentils, mushrooms, fresh herbs, as well as roasted cauliflower, butternut squash, and carrots. The sauce was flavored with dried porcini mushrooms, wine, onions, and loads of garlic. It was fabulously saucy with layers of rich flavor.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit. Next time, I would prepare the components of the dish a day in advance, as much as possible. The potato topping would ideally be prepared in advance at the very least. This delicious dish was absolutely worth the work and the wait! Great.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Topping:

  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, unpeeled
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes
  • about 3/4 to 1 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • coarse salt

For the Filling:

  • ¾ cup brown or French green lentils
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 17 garlic cloves, divided
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped (about 3-4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken stock (I incorporated 4 cups homemade Turkey Stock)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce or 2 tablespoons white miso
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 cups ½-inch pieces peeled fall/winter vegetables (such as squash, turnips, carrots, and parsnips) (I used 1 medium butternut squash, 1 head of cauliflower, & 2 carrots)
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed, halved
  • 2 4-inch sprigs rosemary
  • 10 oz (about 2 cups) bite-size pieces mixed fresh mushrooms (I used sliced cremini & white button mushrooms)
  • ¼ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme, chives, and sage)

To Make the Topping:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bake potatoes on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet until tender, about 40 minutes for the gold potatoes and 1 hour for the russet potatoes.
  3. Let cool slightly, then peel.
  4. Press potatoes through a ricer, food mill, or colander into a large bowl.
  5. Add butter; stir until well blended.
  6. Stir in milk until desired consistency is achieved.
  7. Season to taste with salt. Set aside.

DO AHEAD: Potatoes can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool, press plastic wrap directly onto potatoes, and chill.

To Prepare the Lentils:

  1. Combine lentils, 1 garlic clove, 1 tsp salt, and 4 cups water in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender but not mushy, 15–25 minutes.
  3. Drain lentils and discard garlic. Set aside.

To Make the Sauce:

  1. Soak dried porcini in 3 cups hot water; set aside.
  2. Heat 3 T olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. (I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  3. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add 10 cloves of chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Stir in tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until tomato paste is caramelized, 2–3 minutes.
  6. Add bay leaves and wine; stir, scraping up any browned bits.
  7. Stir in porcini, slowly pouring porcini soaking liquid into pan but leaving any sediment behind.
  8. Bring to a simmer and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
  9. Stir in broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  10. Strain mixture into a large bowl with a spout. Discard the solids.
  11. Wipe Dutch oven clean and returned strained sauce to pot; bring to a boil. (I had 5 cups of strained sauce.)
  12. Stir cornstarch and 3 T water in a small bowl to dissolve.
  13. Add cornstarch mixture to hot sauce; simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  14. Whisk in soy sauce/miso.
  15. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Make the Vegetable Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Toss vegetables and pearl onions with remaining 2 T oil, 6 garlic cloves, and rosemary sprigs in a large bowl or on 2 parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheets; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Divide evenly between the 2 rimmed baking sheets. Roast, stirring once, until tender, 20–25 minutes.
  4. Transfer garlic cloves to a small bowl; mash well with a fork and stir into sauce.
  5. Discard rosemary.

DO AHEAD: Lentils, sauce, and vegetables can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately; chill.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Arrange lentils in an even layer in a 3-qt. baking dish; set dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Toss roasted vegetables with fresh mushrooms and chopped herbs; layer on top of lentils.
  3. Pour sauce over vegetables.
  4. Spoon potato mixture evenly over. Swirl decoratively.
  5. Bake at 425°, preferably on convection, until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking process.
  6. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

I’m sharing my St. Patrick’s Day feast at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #163 this week. Enjoy!!

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