Orecchiette with Roasted Butternut Squash, Baby Spinach and Caramelized Red Onion


Living in Italy for 5 years, I learned from my family that ANY day was a good day for pasta! My children would eat it for the first course of their 3 course school lunch, and my husband would have pasta for lunch at work, yet all of them would be happy if I made pasta for dinner that night.

This dish uses orecchiette pasta, which you can find at Wegman’s –it is part of their Italian Classics line of dried pastas.  Orecchiette means “little ear” in Italian, the shape of the pasta giving it the name. It is a dense pasta, perfect for all the veggies that are mixed in with it.

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Orecchiette with Roasted Butternut Squash, Baby Spinach and Caramelized Red Onion

1 large butternut squash, cut into small cubes

4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and pepper

1 pinch cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 red onion, sliced thinly

1/2 pound orecchiette pasta (1/2 of a box)

1 or 2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth, divided

1 big handful baby spinach

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 Tablespoon chopped sage

Parmesan cheese, to serve

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Toss the butternut squash with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper and the nutmeg.  Roast until the butternut squash pieces are tender and the edges of the squash are a bit brown, about 30 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over low heat.  Cook the sliced red onions until caramelized, about 30 minutes. It does seem like a long time, but believe me, they will caramelize ONLY with low, long heat!  Set the onions aside.

Heat a pot of water over high heat until boiling.  Salt the water generously (or as Mario Batali says “as salty as the sea”).  Cook the orecchiette according to package instructions until al dente. Before draining the pasta, take out 1 cup of the  pasta water for moistening the pasta, if necessary, later.

Heat another Tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat.  Add the spinach and cook just until the spinach is wilted, add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and cook until the broth is almost completely absorbed.

Add the caramelized onions.  Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the remaining chicken broth and simmer about 10 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and add the heavy cream.  When the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan with the sauce.  Add the roasted butternut squash. Stir everything together.  If the dish seems like it needs more moisture, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water to loosen the pasta.

Sprinkle with sage and Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

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