Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Arugula

I love it when my busy brain backs off and allows my instincts to take over in the kitchen.  My best recipes come from trusting my sense of color, smell and taste.  I choose from what is on hand, today a perfect butternut squash and some cranberries stashed in the freezer for cold, damp days like this. I make this dish this morning right after my run, before things get all Thursday-crazy.   The sweet squash, tart cranberries and slightly bitter arugula are wrapped in a rich balsamic maple syrup reduction with caramelized onions and herbs cut fresh from my winter garden.  The chewy, hearty whole grain pasta lies beneath the bed of rich winter flavors and colors, ready to satisfy us tonight.  There will be enough leftover for tomorrow, too!

Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Arugula

Ingredients:

1 lb. whole grain pasta (We prefer long noodles, but any pasta will work.)

2-4 T olive oil

1 large sweet onion, ends trimmed and sliced in half across the trimmed part

1/3 c good balsamic vinegar (This time I used pomegranate balsamic*.)

3 T pure maple syrup

3 T fresh chopped sage leaves

8 cloves garlic

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1″ dice

1/2 lb. mushrooms, washed and sliced thick

1/4 tsp each dried marjoram and thyme

1 c fresh or frozen cranberries

1 c chopped seitan (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

5 c arugula

2 T Blood Orange oil

1/4 c chopped walnuts

4 T nutritional yeast

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 °.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Wash the arugula and place it in a large colander.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta.  Drain the pasta in the colander with the arugula.  (This will nicely wilt the arugula without over-cooking it.)  Pour the drained pasta and arugula into a large bowl or back into the pot.

While pasta water is heating and then while pasta is cooking:

Thinly slice the onion halves.  Heat 1-2 T of the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onions and cook over low heat until caramelized, (golden), about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the onion is cooking, lightly oil a large cookie sheet or baking pan.  Cut a piece of foil about 6″ square.  Place the garlic in the foil, drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil, and fold the foil to seal.  Place the foil packet in a corner of the baking sheet.  Add the butternut squash and the mushrooms to the cookie sheet, drizzle with remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with marjoram and thyme.  Roast the vegetables in the oven on the center rack for 15 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and stir the vegetables, leaving the garlic packet as is.  Add the cranberries and seitan (if using) and roast for 12-15 minutes more, until cranberries are soft and squash is tender.  Remove from oven and set aside.  Open the foil packet, remove the garlic, and mash with a fork.

When the onions are caramelized, turn the heat to medium-high and add the balsamic vinegar, the maple syrup and the sage.  Bring to a boil and stir.  Cook until the liquid is reduced by half.  Remove from heat and stir in the roasted garlic, the butternut squash and cranberry mixture, and the walnuts.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Pour the reserved cup of pasta liquid back into the pasta.  Stir in the blood orange oil and the nutritional yeast.

To serve:

Place about 1/2 c of the pasta with arugula into shallow bowls.  Ladle on the butternut squash mixture and serve.  For a beautiful presentation for guests, place the pasta in a really big wooden or pottery bowl.  Ladle the butternut squash mixture on top and serve at the table.

*My husband and I have built up quite a stash of different balsamic vinegars and flavored oils.  We love to travel to Portsmouth NH to a little specialty shop called LeRoux Kitchen, where we can sample different seasonal offerings.  We  have been known to return home with our little smart car’s trunk stuffed with treats…but any good balsamic will do.

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4 Comments on “Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Arugula”

  1. Craig Says:

    Wow! I am so jealous. You had this for brunch today….. on the day after I worked from home. Looking forward to any leftovers when I get home. Love the Smart Car link, too.

    I should add that the Blood Orange Oil was from LeRoux Kitchen as well. For those of your readers located on Cape Ann, MA, the new Cape Ann Olive Oil Company opened last month in Gloucester.

    http://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/cape-ann-olive-oil-co-first-look-with-owner-lauren-negronlinquta/


    • Oh, mister, don’t be jealous—did not have this for brunch, it’s just ready for tonight’s dinner ahead of time. Must take the girl to school to perform her Vanna White impersonation so will miss you for dinner. The assembled bowl was for the blog pic! Yours will be ready to heat and eat when you return from your long day in the Big City.

  2. michelle Says:

    Well ,all I can say is ” I think you did it again”! Bravo. Can’t wait to try this. Happen to have all the ingredients. Thanks Elizabeth!


  3. Michelle, I think you are going to love this one. Thanks for reading!


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