Dinner in a Blink: Pasta with Chèvre, Asparagus & Mint

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I love Jamie Oliver, but I was cursing him as my attempt to make his recipe for ravioli with minted-asparagus, potatoes and mascarpone went up in flames this last weekend. I wont get into details other than to say that the whole thing ended up being a real big mess and I was nearly forced to go to my Jamie Oliver-themed potluck party empty handed (I substituted with his easy and excellent “Chocolate Pots” at the 11th hour. When in doubt, bring chocolate!). Despite my ill-fated ravioli-making endeavor, I really can’t stay mad at Jamie because the combination of flavors inspired by his recipe — tangy-creamy chèvre, sweet asparagus, and bright herbs — is quite wonderful and works perfectly as a quick and delightfully spring-y pasta dish that comes together nearly as quickly as boxed mac and cheese. This combo would be equally great on crostini, as a topping for pizza or melted inside a grilled panini.

BTW: I’ll make sure to nudge Simran to share the recipe for Jamie’s ricotta and herb stuffed mushrooms that she made for the potluck — they were great!

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Picnic Recipe: Penne with Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese

I made this for our recent food adventure picnic at the de Young.  I used pre-cut butternut squash from Trader Joe’s and roasted it on a baking tray lined with foil (easy clean-up) the night before the picnic.  To make it kid friendly, I fine diced the onions and omitted the basil from the kids version (lest “green-phobia” lead to rejection of dish).  You can omit the nuts if you have allergies.  If the little ones are picky, the butternut squash can be pureed after roasting and mixed in versus having it in bite sized chunks.  Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese by Giada De Laurentiis is satisfying, yummy and the perfect picnic food.

Penne with Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray
  • 1 (2-pound) butternut or kombucha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (I used less)
  • 1 onion, chopped in small dice
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
  • 1 packed cup chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan

Directions

1) Place an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2)  Spray a lined baking sheet, liberally, with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

3)  Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bake for to 20 to 25 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through. Turn squash pieces over and scatter onions around squash and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

4) Boil pasta per package directions. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Put the pasta, goat cheese and 1 cup of pasta water in a large serving bowl. Toss until the cheese has melted and forms a creamy sauce (easy mac & cheese?). Add the squash and onion mixture, the walnuts and the basil. Toss well and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with Parmesan and serve.