I love butternut squash. If you haven’t tried it you need to get on board. This winter squash is great because its such a hearty veg, and when it cooks up it has a great natural sweetness to it. A lot of cooks are wary of using butternut squash because it’s a chore to chop into manageable pieces. Fear not friends! Nowadays most large grocery store chains offer packaged pre-cubed squash in their produce section. Take the shortcut and save yourself a lot of grief.
I adapted this recipe from Everyday Italian with Giada Di Laurentiis (adore her!) which was originally made with prawns. Most of my family aren’t seafood lovers so I substituted chicken. This dish can also be easily made vegetarian by leaving out the meat entirely. It’s a fairly heathy meal, especially if you use a multigrain pasta like I did, and its a great way to sneak important vitamins and antioxidants (vitamins A, C, B1, B3, B6, and omega 3′s) into a picky eater’s dinner.
3 tbsp olive oil, plus 3 tbsp
1 lb butternut squash, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes.
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp salt, plus 1 tsp
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/2 tsp
1 cup vegetable or low sodium chicken stock
1 lb dry short pasta (rigatoni, gemelli, ziti, penne etc.)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed into 1″ pieces
3/4 to 1c milk (whole milk is best but if you’re watching calories 2% is fine)
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
1/4 c grated parmesan
Warm 3 tbsp of olive oil in a large 3″ deep skillet over med-high heat. Add the butternut squash, garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Saute until the squash is tender (5 to 7 min). Add the stock, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash is very soft (another 5 to 7min). Transfer the squash mixture to a blender or food processor and purée*.
Tip: Once you’ve got the squash purée all done, you could put it in a plastic container at this point and save it for later, or for the next day when you want to throw a quick weeknight meal together. Just sayin.
Next, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but firm to the bite (approx 8 to 10min). Drain pasta well.
While you’re pasta is cooking, warm the remaining 3 tbsp of oil in your skillet over med-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with the remaining 1 tsp salt and remaining 1/2 tsp of pepper (I also threw on some all-purpose italian seasoning but that’s just me). Add the chicken to the pan and cook until no longer pink at all (approx 3min)
In a large pot over low heat combine the cooked pasta, squash purée, and 3/4 cup of milk. Stir gently to combine. Add another 1/4 cup of milk if the sauce needs to be moistened. Fold in the cooked chicken and parmesan cheese. Scatter top with chopped basil. Mangia!
*NOTE – let the mixture cool for approx 5 min before you purée and make sure that if you’re using a blender, you remove the hatch in the lid and cover with a towel while blending. Or if yours doesn’t have a hatch, keep the lid just loosely covering the top of the blender so air can get in. This will prevent any build up of pressure created by the hot liquid as it blends. You don’t want an exploding blender. Trust me.