Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

Don't you just love gourmet food items?  Fancy preserves, sauces, oils, cheese and the like.  There is nothing like buying one fancy (albeit expensive) food item and coming home to make your creation.  It makes us (and our families) feel really special.   

Here's the problem  with that....these products are not usually "light" and they are expensive.  Then we fall in love with them and we cant just buy them all the time.  Some of those items like the O Olive Oil I love, will always be in my pantry.  That's because I cannot replicate the flavor with anything else.  Trust me, I've tried making lemon olive oil.....it wasn't a success.  Lets be real. Citrus and olives crushed together during production is impossible to replicate.  So leave it be and treat yourself with it.  It's truly worth it.  (check it out in my store!)

But there are other items I love that are not so exclusive they couldn't be reproduced.  One of those products is Gourmet Pasta Sauces. My favorite is the butternut squash pasta sauce.  It's creative, so good and so "gourmet" tasting.  But at 6.99 per bottle (about 2 cups), I just cant see buying it that often.   About a year ago, I thought, "Hmmm.  I could make this and I bet could make it better". So I went to town making this.  It took several tries in the "Johnson test kitchen" before I settled on something that is so good it really does knock the socks off that bottled sauce.  Another plus, I can get 3 meals for 2 people when I make just one batch!  Now that's economical gourmet! 

I recently saw a bottle of that gourmet sauce on sale and bought it 'cause I thought "nice to have if I don't want to make it"  When I ate it, I felt Sad!  I liked my sauce so much better.  That bottled sauce now seems to be missing something.

So now, the only butternut squash pasta sauce I eat is this one.  Delicious, creamy, and flavorful.....it's like a party for your pasta!!  While we are at it, lets talk pasta....buy something that is unique that will hold all the gorgeous sauce.  My favorite for this sauce is Orecciette - Dome shaped pasta that will hold the sauce like little "scoops".

Here is a TIDBIT of information:  DON'T PUT OIL IN YOUR WATER when you boil the pasta.  I know it's what your mom taught you, but STOP IT (and I mean that in the most respectful way)   Why you ask?   Because it makes the pasta sleek and slippery!  That way the sauce simply slides off the pasta. Haven't you ever wondered why that happens?  Now you know.  Trust me, with a sauce this good you NEED to have the pasta hold onto that sauce!

By the way, did I mention this is SQUASH and other Vegetables?  It's practically free (WW lingo) making this a points friendly, lite and healthy "Italian" meal.

Buon Appetito!

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
The recipe makes between 6-7 cups depending on your squash size.  2 WW PP per generous cup.
(make sure you add calories/points for your pasta!)

1 Medium to large Butternut squash
1 large onion, cut into about 2" chunks
4 Shallots (optional) skinned an quartered
10 large garlic cloves, skinned (left whole)
a handful of fresh sage - chopped
Dried Italian herb seasoning
Olive oil
salt and pepper
a box of chicken broth with a pour top
1/2 cup cream, half &Half or milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
Dry white wine or Sherry  (1/4 cup or so) OPTIONAL
Red-pepper flakes (optional - sometimes I add them, sometimes I don't)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Cut the butternut squash down the center - remove seeds and pulp

Line a baking sheet with foil and lay the squash cut side down.  Pop into the oven.

Meanwhile in a large bowl toss onions, shallots (if using), garlic cloves, sage and quite a bit of Italian seasoning (approximately 1-2 tablespoons).  Add salt and pepper and toss with a  few tablespoons olive oil until well mixed.  Pour into a sprayed or lined baking dish (not too big) and pop in the oven with the squash.

Drain a can of diced tomatoes and put them on a small lined baking dish and pop into the oven with the rest of the ingredients, until they feel "dry".

The squash should be soft to the touch, about 50 minutes.  The onions and garlic are done when they look cooked and browned ( a little blackened is OK too).  Generally it's pretty close to the same time...but if not, pull each element from the oven when done.

Let the squash cool.  Peel and dice it, then toss it into the onion mixture:

The tomatoes should look about like this (I used fired roasted so they were blackened out of the can)

Put the squash mixer in your food processor or blend in batches. 

Process or blend until really SMOOTH - while it's processing add chicken broth to desired consistency.  Then add the tomatoes and process more until everything is smooth again, adding more chicken broth again.

Add your 1/2 cup of Cream, half and half, or milk.  Process until blended. 

Pour puree into a pot or saute pan.  Heat up and add butter.  If using, add bit of Sherry or white wine. You will want about  1/4 cup or less (or more if you prefer!) and cook a bit to get the initial alcohol flavor out.

*** Please do not use that garbage from the vinegar aisle in your grocery store called "cooking sherry" or "cooking wine"!  Seriously, would you drink a glass of that?  The rule of thumb is if  the wine is not good enough to drink, it's not good enough for your food!  It will RUIN your dish (then you'll be sad with my recipe!! LOL)   Purchase a bottle of Hartley & Gibson's Dry Sherry or similar brand. (it was inexpensive...less than 10.00) and it's excellent.  You will want it around to add to other things and it lasts forever. ****

Add a small amount of red pepper flakes, if desired. 

Your sauce should look about like this.  I like to make it a day ahead and let the flavors meld and mellow overnight.  But I also eat it immediately when I cannot wait! 

From here, if you are only feeding 2, I put 2 cups of sauce into 3 plastic freezer bags and pop 2 of them in the freezer.  That way I have it at a moments notice!

Obviously if you are serving 4,6 or more peeps, you will use the whole batch of sauce....

To make your pasta and put it together

Cook your pasta (I cook about 1-1/2 cups for 2 (about a cup a person) until al dente.  Drain and rinse.

Heat a saute pan with olive oil.  When hot add Pasta and toss to heat.  (I add cooked chicken sometimes, just like I did here)  If you are using a protien, toss in now. 

When hot, Ladle in sauce and toss to coat.  Heat through.

You may need a bit more chicken broth at this stage (I did).  Just add it to the pasta and sauce until desired consistency is reached.

 When hot (just a couple minutes) divide into two bowls and top with Parmesan cheese.

The result? A very gourmet, creamy and flavorful sauce that isn't "run of the mill".  Definitely upscale enough for Special occasions.  But serve it on weeknights to simply impress you and your family.  They deserve it!

From my home to yours, ENJOY!

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