Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baked Butternut Penne

Baked Butternut Penne

My take on this recipe: I guess this is what happens when you buy all the stuff to make lasagne and forget the noodles! For as long as I spend making grocery lists and analyzing recipes, when I get to the grocery store I get distracted by all of the different foods shouting out to me. Shopping with me is like setting a little kid loose in candy store. And with all the good stores sampling out delightful desserts on the weekends, I do indeed walk out with a sugar-high (and a money-low). As far as this recipe goes, that butternut tastes good alone!! It would make make an excellent side dish. Especially if you add a little green spinach for color. Dad and I kept snacking on it throughout all the cooking. Bad idea though it's sooo filling. I felt a little full before I even served dinner haha. 

But if you have time, this baked penne is a breath of fresh air when all those store-bought-jar-sauce-pastas start to run together. It's colorful - red, green, white and yellow - and the butternut gives a nice sweet-salty combination. Using freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano makes this dish so I beg you- do not pick up Kraft packaged Parmesan and take the easy way out. I loved this dish because it has a lot of texture with the soft squash and pine nuts that give it a bite. Often you'll find lasagne and baked pasta dishes overrun with marinara. The Baked Butternut Penne has a nice white sauce for a change, but tomatoes are so good I'd rather use diced ones to maintain that taste of light freshness in the baked penne.  Well, I hope you can sit around the table one evening and enjoy this penne with your family and friends!

For squash filling
3 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves minced garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper to season 
salt-free Italian seasoning

pine nuts


For sauce
3 cloves teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
salt-free Italian seasoning
salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

For assembling casserole:
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (5 oz) 
15 oz wheat penne, cooked al dente
diced tomatoes
fresh spinach


Make filling: 
Cook scallion in butter in a deep pan or wok over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Add squash, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Italian seasoning and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cooks: 
Cook garlic in butter in a large, heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour into melted butter, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and black pepper and remove from heat. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)

Assemble casserole: 
Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a large mixing bowl mix penne, ¾ of the parmigiano, squash filling, diced tomatoes, and fresh spinach. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish and cover with all of penne mix. Pour over remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining parmigiano. Sprinkle Italian seasoning. Bake for 15 minutes.

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