Many times it’s hard to see pasta past a red sauce, but many of the best pasta dishes I’ve had get an extraordinary amount of flavor and complexity from subtle ingredients that would be otherwise masked by the robustness of a tomato. Such pasta dishes often have an oil based ‘dressing’, if you will, like spaghetti with white beans and garlic.
Here I’ve taken a late season fall gourd, acorn squash, and roasted it along with spinach and caramelized onions. The roasted squash and sweet onions go really well together, offering a sweet and savory infused oil that lingers in your mouth.
- 1/2 pound dry penne pasta
- 1 medium acorn squash
- 2 onions
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or just plain water)
- 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (either packed in oil or dry)
- 1/2 pound washed baby spinach (or regular spinach, chopped)
*If you are using the tomatoes that are dried (not packed in oil), place them in the wine to allow them to soften.
- First we roast the squash by peeling it, cutting it in half (lengthwise) and scooping the seeds out. Cut into 3/4″ cubes and put on a baking sheet. Slice the onions and add to the squash. Toss it all with the 1/4 cup olive oil, big pinch of salt, paprika, cayenne and black pepper (might be easier to mix everything in a bowl first then place on the baking sheet). Bake at 400*F until the squash is able to be pierced by a fork (about 20 minutes), stirring everything 2-3 times to prevent the onions from burning.
- Cook the penne in salted water per the package directions until al dente. Drain, toss with some oil to prevent sticking and set aside.
- While the squash is baking and penne is cooking, heat some oil in a heavy bottom pan over med/low heat and add the garlic. Cook until just lightly browned and fragrant (1 minute). Turn the heat to high and then deglaze with the wine (remove the tomatoes if you were soaking them). Let the wine reduce for a bit (30 secs) over the high heat, then add the stock, tomatoes and spinach. Add the penne and mix thoroughly. Cook until the spinach wilts.
- Combine the squash with the garlic-spinach mixture. Season with additional salt or spices and add some extra olive oil as needed (for me I added an additional 1/8 cup) to make a nice mixture that isn’t overly oily.
- Serve with some red pepper flakes for garnish.
Yes, we’re all ready for spring after this long winter and it’s starting to make itself evident in Maryland. What we’re most looking forward to is gardening- we’ve started veggie & perennial seeds, we’ve been weeding like crazy, and ordering a bunch of shade loving plants for a big section of our backyard.
Another reason to get excited is the availability of cold weather produce. Radishes, lettuce, kale, spinach and more. I never really use radish, but couldn’t resist a bunch of them being so fresh along with a big bag of spinach.
Since most of our meals aren’t finished until well past sunset (and photographing food under light bulbs is less than ideal), I didn’t get a picture of the final dish. However, it was tasty enough that we plan on making it again and again. We ended up serving it warm by adding the spinach and radish to the warm lentils which resulted in slightly wilted spinach. I can easily see, though, serving it as a cold salad for lunch with warm pita bread or the like.
- 1 cup of onion (about 1/2 large onion), diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stick, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 3/4 cup of dried green or brown lentils
- 1.5 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 tsp thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 5-7 radish bulbs, sliced thinly
- 1 bunch of fresh spinach leaves (about 3 handfuls)
- 1/2 cup dried quinoa
- 4 oz chicken style seitan (optional)
- salt & pepper
- 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Cook the mirepoix in some olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot (dutch oven) with some salt over low heat until the veggies and soft and onions translucent. Add in the garlic and cook on high for a few minutes until any residual moisture is evaporated.
- Deglaze with the wine, then pour in the lentils, bay leaf, water/broth and thyme. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the lentils are soft. As the lentils cook, stir occasionally and add more water to ensure the lentils are mostly submerged.
- While the lentils cook, make the quinoa according to package directions and make the vinaigrette by whisking together all the dressing ingredients in a jar.
- When the lentils are soft, turn the heat back up to high and cook off any remaining water and then kill the heat.
- If you plan to eat this as a cold salad, cool the quinoa and lentil mixture.
- Stir in the quinoa, radishes and spinach leaves. If you are using the seitan, saute it seperately in a fry pan and then add it into the lentil mixture.
- Drizzle on the dressing and stir to combine before serving. Season with additional salt and pepper.