Butternut Squash Carbonara
If you had told me two years ago that I would post a recipe with the words “butternut squash” in the title, I would have laughed and said you were crazy. I have always hated squash with a passion. If I wanted something soft and sweet, I’d eat a bowl of ice cream. Every September, though, my dad insists we take some squash from their garden. Every September I do. Then I either feed it to my husband or add it to a pile of small pumpkins for a nice fall centerpiece. I love the strange shapes and bright colors of squash. The taste and texture? No thanks.
Until I made this recipe, that is.
A few years ago, I shared a post titled, Learning to Love Foods You Hate: A How-To Guide for Frugal Eaters. I was promptly asked if I was going to take my own (secondhand) advice. Hmmm. Always up for a challenge, even if it is self-inflicted, I decided that I would. It took me several months to work up my courage. I figured it was time to take the plunge, starting with Butternut Squash Carbonara.
As I plunked the squash into my shopping cart for the first time in my life, I started having second thoughts. Paying money for squash? Something is seriously wrong with this picture. I pushed on, though, determined to love the foods I hate. And guess what? Both my husband and I were pleasantly surprised with this dish.
This recipe is a lightened form of carbonara, with only 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese coating around a pound of noodles. When making carbonara, the eggs and cheese are poured over hot pasta, cooking the eggs and coating the noodles with a smooth, simple sauce. The sweetness of the squash and the saltiness of the bacon are a perfect compliment for these creamy noodles.
Oh, and butternut squash? I love it now. I really do. Slicing it open, it smells fresh and sweet, like a summertime melon. In this recipe, you dice it into small cubes and saute it. It has a nice firm bite. No mushy stringiness here. This year, I actually grew three butternut squash plants in my garden. When the blossoms turned into tiny squash, I felt so proud. I can grow and eat squash! After a rocky start, we’ve come a long way, baby.
Skeptical about squash? You’re in good company. Try this recipe and see if it changes your mind (If it doesn’t, you could easily substitute another vegetable and still have a delicious carbonara dish).
Butternut Squash Carbonara
“If you prefer a creamier dish, you can drain off the oil from the sauté pan after cooking the bacon and squash and add 1 cup of whipping cream. Simmer until cream reduces by half (don’t try to use half-and-half or milk or it will curdle), then proceed with the recipe.” – Foodday
5 slices bacon
2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
3 c. peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash or other winter squash
12-16 oz. dry pasta (rotini, linguine, fettucini)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- Stack the bacon and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips. Set a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bacon and squash to the pan and cook until bacon is crisp and squash is cooked through, about 10 minutes. You want it in a single layer so it cooks and browns evenly. You may need to do it in two batches, depending on the size of your pan. Add the minced garlic and cook about 1 more minute. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon, squash, and garlic; set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and cook pasta according to package instructions.
- Beat the eggs together in a large serving bowl and add the cheese. Drain the pasta and immediately add to the bowl, tossing quickly to coat the pasta well (reserve and add a little of the pasta water if you like a thinner sauce). Add the contents of the sauté pan into the bowl and toss. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Top with additional Parmesan cheese.
Looking to incorporate more seasonal vegetables into your menu plan? Try out a good vegetarian cookbook — the authors tend to do a fantastic job highlighting produce in a way that makes you want to come back for more! The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen would be a good start. It has amazing reviews! (Amazon)
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