Pasta with Butternut Squash & Toasted Walnut Sauce

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Toasted Walnuts and Broccoli Sauce over Pesto. GF

Every now and then, it is time to clear out the refrigerator.  My family will confirm that I find it shameful to ever throw food away, so I occasionally end up with a dish that is out of the usual.  This is one of those meals.

We had butternut squash waiting to be turned into a roasted vegetable side dish, but that never happened and the only other vegetable I had on hand was a few broccoli florets.  I thought about it a few minutes and first thought I would make a butternut squash bisque, but the kids are never excited about soup so I pushed that thought aside.  Then I thought okay, maybe use the technique for soup, but turn it into a sauce.  After all, we love pasta and I am currently in an after-the-holidays-calorie-cutting-menu phase.

VOILA! A new sauce.

And here we go…..  As always, if you make this recipe and see a correction or better technique, let me know!


1 box of dried penne or other pasta that holds sauce well (gluten free or regular)

5-6 cups of precut fresh butternut squash

1 medium cooking onion, diced

1 small head of broccoli, broken into florets

1 c. walnuts, or nut of choice (I do not suggest almonds unless slivered)

4c. chicken or vegetable stock (from the pantry or purchased)

2 c. grated parmesan (not sprinkle parm, actual, fresh parmesan)

½ c. grated fresh smoked mozzarella (or regular if you prefer)

3 Tbsp. roasted tomatoes in oil (homemade or purchased) (from the pantry)

1/4 c. packed arugula

Olive oil as needed

Pesto – for an under-garnish, about 3 Tbsp. per person (homemade or purchased) (from the pantry)

Salt & Pepper to taste


  1.  Preheat oven to 300°.
  2. Place walnuts on one side of a baking sheet and the broccoli, drizzled with oil, on the other and roast for 4 minutes, stir, and toast 3 more or until you smell the nut flavor.  Remove from over, chop, and cover with just enough olive oil to coat.  Set aside.
  3. Increase the heat to 350°.
  4. Heat a heavy bottom pot (I use a 5 qt. copper pot) to medium and add enough olive oil to cover.  Cook the diced onion for 3 minutes, stirring to avoid browning.
  5. Add the cut squash and continue sautéing for about 5 minutes.  This will start to cook and soften the squash, slightly caramelizing the sugars.
  6. Add the chicken stock, bring to boil, reduce to simmer until the squash is soft, but not falling apart, 6-8 minutes – but check.  Do not overcook the squash.
  7. With an immersion blender, blend the squash, onion and stock into a sauce.
  8. Stir in 1 c. of parmesan and ½ c. grated smoked mozzerella.
  9. Add the uncooked pasta to the sauce and stir, making sure the sauce enters the rigatoni or that it coats all of your pasta.
  10. Pour the pasta and sauce into a deep baking dish and – this is important – put the dish on a baking sheet as it may bubble over.
  11. Loosely cover with foil and bake for about 10 minutes.  Check the pasta for doneness (different pasta’s will cook more quickly than others.). If it needs more time, continue baking and check every 5 minutes or so.
  12. When the pasta is properly cooked, remove from oven and stir in the roasted broccoli and arugula.  Sprinkle with remaining parmesan, spread the walnuts over the top, and dollop the roasted tomatoes in the middle.
  13. To serve, spread pesto on the bottom of the pasta plate, and serve the pasta on top of it.
  14. Enjoy!


Bolognese a/k/a Meat Sauce a/k/a More Please….

Showing the parmesan rind.
Bolobnese, showing the parmesan rind.

One of life’s truisms is that everyone loves pasta, don’t let them tell you otherwise – that is just an attempt to make you walk away from the pasta bowl to save more for them.  Honestly.

Even so, not everyone loves the same kind of pasta.  Some like their noodles al dente (“toothy), others mushy (not me!).  Some like red sauces, some white.  Some red sauces have sugar added, others would rather gnaw on a pine cone.  Some choose a smooth marinara, others a chunky Bolognese.  This recipe is in that last category, a nice, chunky Bolognese – with no sugar added.

If you follow any of my recipes, you are probably aware that I consider a recipe more of an advisory opinion that a “you must do this….this way….now”.  And that is quite true with sauces, partially for the reasons set forth above:  everyone has their own preferences.  So, here comes by basic recipe.  You can add, subtract and substitute all day long and make it your own.  But I suggest beginning at the beginning.  Make this base, what I consider “essential” recipe, then modify it to your own liking.  Oh, and this recipe makes 6 quarts of deliciousness.  As you will see below, I use my vacuum sealer  to make individual quart bags to freeze for later.  They lay flat, and thaw quickly, but you can also use mason jars.  I do not suggest storing red sauce in any of your plastic containers (to be honest, I don’t recommend plastic containers at all), because the sauce will stain the containers and depending on quality, you may even end up with a chemical taste in your sauce.  Ew. (Jimmy?  Jimmy Falon??  Where are you?)

Continue reading “Bolognese a/k/a Meat Sauce a/k/a More Please….”

Linguini Alfredo with Shrimp Scampi (gf)

GF Linguini Alfredo with Shrimp Scampi, served with carrots sauteed with leeks and garlic bread (yes, it's gf too).
GF Linguini Alfredo with Shrimp Scampi, served with carrots sauteed with leeks and garlic bread (yes, it’s gf too).

Okay it’s a little bit of a combination of a few great classics. Sometimes when I’m cooking gf, it becomes a mashup. That’s how I roll (groan now). Until our local grocery store began carrying fresh, gf pasta, dinners such as this were non-existent. While there is a place for everything, I find few uses for dried pasts, gf or not. The few times I made a sauce and used a dried corn or rice flour based pasta, I was disappointed. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t worth a repeat effort. The fresh pasta changes everything! It is so close to a wheat based flour pasta I can hardly tell the difference. We are fortunate, our grocer carries gf linguini, fusilli and lasagne sheets, allowing us to make many recipes we otherwise wouldn’t enjoy. And for that I say, grazie.

This dish is not just tasty, it is quick. You can have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes after your shell and devein your shrimp. Oh, the shrimp, everyone has their own opinions on shrimp, and I am not one to not have an opinion. Ever. But that’s another story….back to the shrimp. I buy only uncooked shrimp. They are so quick and easy to steam, even when you are in a hurry, that I have never understood why you would risk buying pre-cooked, a/k/a bland and flavorless, shrimp. There are more and arguably better, reasons too. You have shells to use to make a seafood stock; you can cook the shrimp right in your sauce to add depth of flavor; you ensure the freshness of the shrimp, and, my favorite is that if you are cooking a meal, you should never ever ever never ever start with pre-cooked meat. Ever. Now for the recipe.

Wait, a last observation. This is my version of two classics, but certainly not the only versions nor necessarily authentic. If I was making only an alfredo, the recipe would be a bit different, but becasue of the added flavors of the scampi, it is slightly toned down. Okay, that’s my disclaimer, now go cook!


fresh gf linguini or pasta of your choice (8 oz.)
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese (the real stuff, not from a green can) plus more for garnish.
1 egg yoke (reserve the white for velveting chicken!)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
S&P to taste
*crushed red pepper, optional, to taste

4 large; 6 medium or 8 small shrimp per person
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4-6 cloves of chopped garlic
1 lemon, first clean the fruit and grate the peel, not touching any of the white pith, then cut in half and reserve
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley, plus a bit more for garnish
1/4 c. chopped tomato (fresh is great in season, but if not you can substitute a canned variety)

Making the Sampi
1. Melt the butter over medium low heat. When it begins to bubble and before it browns, add the garlic and sautee for 30 seconds. Do not brown the garlic!
2. Add your shrimp on an even layer and do not touch it until you see it begin to turn a beautiful shade of orange half way up the side; turn.
3. Continue cooking the shrimp, without touching them, until they are no longer translucent, about 6 minutes in total. When the shrimp are fully cooked, squeeze the lemon over the entire pan and swirl. Add the chopped parsley and top with fresh cracked pepper. Remove from heat immediately, add the tomato, cover and set aside.

Making the Sauce
1. Place a large pot of salted water on the stove and keep at a simmer, this will make cooking the pasta quick as soon as your sauce is ready.
2. Heat a medium size sautee pan to medium low to medium, depending on your stove. You do not want to scald the milk.
3. Add the milk and warm it. When it begins to steam, add your cream.
4. When the mixture is steaming, add your cheese and stir with a spatula frequently, to melt the cheese.
5. Once the cheese is fully incorporated, remove from heat and add the nutmeg, and pepper. Be careful to not add additional salt until after you taste your sauce, the parmesan will add considerable saltiness. If it needs additional salt, add it in small increments.
6. After the sauce has cooled a bit, stir in your egg yoke. BE CAREFUL to not do this too soon, or you will have scrambled yoke in your sauce instead of creaminess. Put a lid on over your sauce while you cook the pasta. Fresh pasta should only take 2-3 minutes to cook, and will reheat your sauce just prior to serving.
7. When the salted water comes to a boil, add your fresh pasta and stir. Check for doneness at the earliest cooking time indicated on the packaging. It is important to keep your pasta strong (al dente) to hold up to the sauce and seafood. Do not overcook. Strain the pasta, shake once or twice and then add to your sauce, incorporating gently with rubber tongs.

Plate your pasta, sprinkle with more cheese and top with shrimp. Garnish with a bit more of the chopped parsley.