My recipe for Winter Squash and Pasta Casserole got its start last fall as a result of our bumper crop of winter squash.
Let me explain.
Major and I stood looking at and marveling over our huge crop of winter squash.
“Gloria!” Major said. His voice was stern.
I turned from all that wonderful squash to face him.
“No squash with apple cooked in the microwave!”
I felt my eyes get wide. I jerked back to the squash, so he wouldn’t see my distress. I knew exactly what he was thinking, and I wanted to sidestep him. “But I love squash with apple,” I said. “It’s so good.” I didn’t say, and it’s so easy to fix. I did say, “I like having it every week.”
“That’s the problem,” he said. “These squash are so large we can’t eat it all in one meal — it takes a whole week.”
I flashed him a bright smile. “That’s why the cinnamon is on the table — so you can sprinkle it on.”
He wagged his head back and forth. “Gloria, you know you are a rut-eater and I’m not.”
How true, I thought. If something tastes good to me, I want it over and over — frequently. If something tastes good to Major he wants it over and over with lots of time in between. If I accommodate myself with something I like, he reaches the point where he can’t eat it again — sometimes for months.
“Find some new recipes,” he said.
We both work to please the other. I try to prepare a variety of menus to maintain his interest in each meal. In return, he knows I will eat anything for breakfast — as long as it’s bland. Cooking bland every time it’s his turn to prepare breakfast is as hard for him as staying out of food ruts is for me.
With his encouragement, my search was on for winter squash recipes.
When my mother-in-law learned of my search, she joined in. A magazine she subscribed to included a whole segment of winter squash recipes. She shared them with me. To tease, she pointed at a particular recipe. “Here’s one for you,” she said. “It has vodka.” She knows I don’t use alcohol.
I laughed with her.
The magazine picture made the dish look appetizing. The vodka didn’t bother me. I’d leave it out and adjust the other liquids. But what to use for the cream? And what about the cheese sprinkled on top?
After several tries, I had my own version. It still contained the winter squash and pasta but little else of the original ingredients.
- 4 cups cubed winter squash (about 1½ to 2 pounds squash)
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- ¼ teaspoon grains of paradise
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 Tablespoons cornmeal
- 1½ cups dry pasta
- 1 medium onion
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup green peas
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 cup cashew gravy base
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons prepared pesto
- Coat the peeled, seeded, and cubed squash with grapeseed oil.
- Grind grains of paradise, garlic powder, and cornmeal until fine. Mix with squash. Bake at 400 degrees 15-20 minutes.
- Cook pasta.
- Cook green peas.
- Saute onion in olive oil.
- Add crushed red pepper, cashew gravy base, tomato juice, and salt to the onion.
- Layer the pasta, squash, and peas. Pour on the sauce. Sprinkle pesto onto the top.
- Eat and enjoy.
Although I've planned this as a stove top casserole, it works well to cook in advance, layer into casserole dish, cover, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until hot. It tends to be a little dry unless you add the sauce immediately before heating in the oven.