Friday, February 24, 2012
BAKED PASTA WITH SQUASH, KALE, AND BACON
That’s right, it’s squash and kale, together yet again! What can I say? I’m insatiable, and shockingly, I didn’t already have a recipe that utilized this great combo in pasta form. Add bacon and crème fraiche and I can’t say no. Amazingly, this indulgent-seeming concoction comes to us from Cooking Light. It’s heavy on the veggies and light on the pasta (despite my hatred of not using the full 1-pound package and having random pasta remnants left over in my cupboard, I did follow the directions to use just 12 ounces and it was plenty of food), strategically using small amounts of bacon and Gruyere to deliver big flavor. Of course, if you were to increase the bacon and Gruyere just a bit, you wouldn’t be the only one to do so, judging from the comments and my own experience.
I’m not going to lie: This thing is a hassle to make. You have to roast squash, sauté bacon and onions, boil pasta and kale, and make the sauce all in separate steps, then combine everything and stick it into the oven. Unless you live in a palace, you will use every square inch of stovetop and counter space and dirty a frightening number of dishes. I wouldn’t attempt this on a weeknight, and it won’t even be a regular go-to dish. But I guarantee you, it’s worth the trouble. None of the techniques are difficult and the result is exceedingly tasty, with a good balance of sweetness and salt and smokiness and spice. The sauce is rich and creamy, but thanks to the colorful assortment of vegetables, it doesn’t feel heavy. This is a great way to tempt the kale-phobic, or just to dress up your winter veggies as comfort food.
5 cups (½-inch) cubed, peeled butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2–4 slices bacon, diced
2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt, divided
5 garlic cloves, minced
12 ounces uncooked penne or other tube-shaped pasta
4 cups chopped kale
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup crème fraîche
½–¾ cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine squash and oil in a large bowl; toss well. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or coated with cooking spray). Bake for 30 minutes or until squash is tender; remove squash from oven and set aside, but leave oven on.
3. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ½ teaspoon salt and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until almost al dente. Add kale to pan during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta mixture.
5. Bring 1¾ cups broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Combine remaining ¼ cup broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and red pepper to broth. Cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in crème fraîche.
6. Add squash, pasta mixture, bacon, and sauce to the skillet with the onion mixture (or combine everything in a large bowl if the skillet isn’t big enough) and toss gently. Place pasta mixture in a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.
Serves: 6 to 8
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: High.