Monday, December 3, 2012

Parmesan and Herb Butternut Squash Sauce

I know what you're thinking...

2 posts about pasta in a row?! (That IS what you were thinking, isn't it?)

Look, let's just set the record straight. Pasta dishes are just delicious. If it weren't for the abundance of empty carbs and the obesity that would ensue, we would eat pasta all day, every day. wouldn't? Liar. J/K I still love you though.

The one thing that isn't always rainbows and butterflies when it comes to pasta dishes is that they can often seem redundant. Pasta. Sauce. Maybe a veggie tossed in. And some variation of protein. Yadda yadda yadda.

Nowadays, people are looking to answer one big question: how can I lighten up some of my favorite pasta dishes? Whole wheat pasta is a great place to start. I really enjoy the texture of whole wheat pasta. It's a little grainy and stays firm even if you cook it a little more than al dente.

I have also seen a lot of foodies out there branching out beyond traditional sauces like marinara, alfredo, and marsala. One trend that has intrigued me most this season is the use of pureed butternut squash as a substitute for sauce. I've never cooked with butternut squash before, but I am really happy that I tried it!

I used whole wheat rotini pasta (the rotini is one of my favorites because the saucey goodness tends to get trapped in the center of the curls) and mixed it up with sweet chicken sausage and baby broccoli. Add a heaping palm-ful of parmesan cheese to pureed butternut squash along with your favorite fresh herbs, and the result is a sophisticated and out-of-the-box pasta dish.

This whole meal comes together in about 30 minutes (extra bonus!) and the flavors are just bursting in each bite! Even my self-proclaimed pasta fanatic boyfriend went back for seconds and thirds, so I know something went right. Next time you want a comforting meal without the expense of a day's worth of carbs, pick up a butternut squash and give this recipe a try!

Here's what you need for my Parmesan and Herb Butternut Squash Sauce:

1 butternut squash (about 4 pounds by weight)
1 pound sweet chicken sausage, removed from the casing (I used a chicken pesto sausage from Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch baby broccoli, washed and trimmed
1 large shallot, grated
1 glove garlic, minced
4 fresh sage leaves, julienned
1 spring fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped fine
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter, divided
Plenty of salt and cracked black pepper
1 box whole wheat pasta (try rotini or bow ties)

Here's what you do:

Heavily salt a pot of water and bring to a boil.
Cut the butternut squash into 2-inch cubes (to ensure even cooking). Add to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the pot using a search and rescue spoon (you know, a slotted spoon) and drain well.
Add the pasta to the same pot and cook until al dente 7 to 8 minutes.
In a bowl, add the butternut squash and 2 tablespoons of butter along with all of the parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. Smash using a potato masher (or a blender if the squash is not tender enough). Season with a little salt and pepper, and set aside.
In a large skillet, crumble the sausage with some EVOO into bite sized pieces. Cook until slightly browned and no pink remains. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

In the same skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the baby broccoli and toss to combine. Add the grated shallot and garlic and cook until the broccoli is tender.

Add back the sausage and the butternut squash puree to the skillet and stir to combine.

When the pasta is cooked, drain well then return to the pot. Toss in the sauce and combine well. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
Serve with another dash of parmesan cheese on top.

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