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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cavatappi with Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, and Walnuts

Every year around this time, I become obsessed with butternut squash. Chopped, pureed, in a soup, in the name it, I want it. The best part is that it's always readily available. This year I have made an unbelievable discovery. Well, it's actually very believable, but let me say it allows me to eat so much more squash! Woohoo! Green Giant has a bag of squash which is already cut into little pieces. If you've never tried to cut your own squash, it's a gigantic pain. Some may say otherwise, but I think it's a lot of work and buying the bag is much easier. It's perfect! I get a huge bag at BJ's for $5.00. Can't beat that. 

I found this recipe in a magazine, and it immediately caught my eye because of all the delicious flavors, but it REALLY got me because it is only 300 calories. Yes, 300 calories. 307 to be exact, but I think my revamped version is lighter because I swapped out a few ingredients for lower calorie foods. My recipe last night was using the last of my squash, so I only used about 2 cups of squash for this whole dish. I chop the pieces a bit small so it really goes throughout the whole dish and so I can stretch what I have.

What you will need:
- Jelly roll pan or pie plate
- Olive oil
- 2 cups butternut squash, more or less, cubed
- 2 cups Cavatappi pasta
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
- 2 tsp flour
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
- 1/2 cup of blue cheese crumbles
- salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In the pie plate, toss your butternut squash, olive oil, brown sugar, and salt & pepper. I like tossing my squash in brown sugar because it caramelizes in the oven and really gives it a sweet, sticky taste. My favorite! Roast your squash in the oven for 20 minutes stirring halfway through. The squash will acquire a shiny coating and be slightly browned. That's when you know they're perfect. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a small pan, add a tiny swirl of olive oil and cook the walnuts for about 2 minutes. They burn very easily, so once you start to smell them, they're done. It's that quick. Set those aside to cool as well.

Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Be sure to add salt to the water when it begins to bubble, and add your macaroni to the water. While it's cooking, begin your sauce. In a small sauce pot, cook the shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add a 1/4 cup of your milk. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and egg yolks with some salt and pepper. Take a few teaspoons of the hot liquid and add it to the cold mixture. This is called tempering. Adding cold liquid quickly to something hot can scramble eggs, and we don't really want that. Once you have tempered the mixture, slowly add it to your sauce pot with the shallots and garlic. Stir to combine and then add your flour. Turn the heat up until it just begins to boil and begin whisking the mixture. Lower the heat and continue whisking while the mixture becomes thick; almost like a cheese sauce. And guess what? There's no cheese in this creamy sauce! It's such a cheat because it makes you feel as if you're being really bad with a decadent dish full of fat. It's so nice to know you're really not. It becomes so thick and velvety, and you can smell all the garlic and shallots. It's incredible how this becomes a sauce. Stir for a few more minutes until it's creamy and the eggs are good and cooked.

Drain the macaroni and add it right back to the pot. Add the squash to the pasta and add the sauce mixture right on top. Toss together to coat every last piece of pasta. You'll want to get them all covered, believe me! :-) Serve in individual bowls and garnish with a sprinkling of nuts and about a tablespoon of blue cheese. This is one creamy pasta dish you don't have to regret! :-)

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