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Cooking with Winter Squash

December 11, 2014

The garden may be mostly asleep now for the winter, but there are still local vegetables to be had.  Winter squashes are harvested in the summer but store well into the fall and winter, so whether you grew some yourself or find them at the store they are a healthy, delicious winter vegetable.

butternutThere are many kinds of winter squashes: acorn, butternut, delicata, pumpkin, etc.- but all are packed full of nutrients and vitamins.  Their orange colored flesh indicates their biggest perk- high levels of beta-carotene (which your body converts to vitamin A), shown to protect against heart disease and breast cancer, and is important for eye health.  They are also high in vitamin C, low in fat, a good source of fiber, and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Butternut squash in particular has a sweet flavor, and can lend a creamy richness to many dishes.  When the cold has us craving warm comfort foods, think squash for healthier dishes without sacrificing flavor.  There are two squash recipes below to try, enjoy!

Squasharoni and Cheese (Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese)

  • 1 1lb box rigatoni or elbow pasta
  • 1 ½ lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (about 3 ½ cups)
  • 2 ¾ cups milk or water
  • 8 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 2 small sweet onions, cut into chunks (optional)
  • 3 ounces breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.  Lightly butter a baking dish; set aside.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain; transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan combine the squash and 2 ½ cups of the milk/water over medium-high heat.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 18 to 20 minutes.
  3. Stir together the remaining ¼ cup milk/water and flour; stir into squash mixture.  Bring to boiling; cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in 1 ½ cups of the cheddar until melted; keep warm.
  4. Add onions to a skillet (if used); cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Uncover and increase heat to high.  Cook 4 to 6 minutes more, stirring, until onions are golden.
  5. Add squash-cheese mixture and onions (if used) to the bowl with the pasta.  Toss well to combine, then transfer to prepared baking dish.
  6. Add breadcrumbs to a small bowl; mix with melted butter.  Sprinkle remaining cheddar and the bread crumbs over pasta mixture.  Bake until top is browned, about 14 to 15 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.
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