Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumnal Penne with Swiss Chard and Butternut Squash

Every fall when the temperature drops and everyone begins to crave meaty roasts and thick hearty stews, I crave the very thing I have just eaten all summer long - pasta. Yet while the pastas I make in the summer time are light and perky filled with basil, tomatoes, and corn, I prefer my 'fall' pasta to reflect the cozier, comforting vibe of the new season.

So every year like clock work, my first fall pasta starts with a massive tray of roasted cubed butternut squash that gets chucked into the cooked pasta along with plenty of olive oil and other autumn veggies. This year I tried adding Swiss Chard for the first time with great success. Chard is a heartier green than spinach or arugula with a bit more bite (just look at the color of the spine on that chard! I have a recurring dream about hunting for a prom dress that color and probably will until the day I die.) Anyway between the squash, chard, Parmesan and toasted walnuts I didn't feel the need for any meat at all. Just a nice warm fire and a heaping glass of cheek-warming red wine.

What are some of your fall recipe traditions?

Autumnal Penne with Swiss Chard and Butternut Squash

Time saving tips:
* Use a big, lidded pot to boil the chard in. As soon as its cooked for a few minutes and drained, dump the water and refill the pot to boil the pasta in. Once the pasta's cooked, drain it and put it back in the same pot so you can mix the rest of the ingredients in.
* Line a large roasting tray with aluminum foil to roast your squash on so there's no need to wash it later (you just have to dispose of the aluminum.)
* You can bake the squash a good hour or two ahead of time and let sit at room temperature as well as the Swiss chard.
* You can skip the step of shocking the chard if you're short on time - it won't have as much texture but will still be good.

1 box (13.25 oz) whole wheat or regular penne
olive oil (preferably lemon infused) and plenty of it
1 bunch of Swiss chard, leaves removed from tough stems, cut or torn into large bite sized chunks
3 cups butternut squash, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
pinch red pepper flakes
1/3 cup Parmesan
fresh nutmeg
lots of fresh cracked black pepper
lots of sea or kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or slightly less if using dried thyme
1/3 cup toasted walnut pieces
goat cheese, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Add the cubed butternut squash to the pan and drizzle a good tablespoon or so of olive oil over them. Toss with your hands (they work best) to be sure each piece is coated then sprinkle with a good pinch or two of kosher or sea salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes, some black pepper and toss again. Put in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the sides touching the pan begin to brown. Carefully flip to the other side with a spatula and roast for another 20 or so minutes until they're nice and golden. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile heat a large, rimmed pot full of water over high heat. At the same time, prepare an ice bath in another bowl and have a spider or strainer nearby. Once boiling, add a handful of salt and stir through then add the chard using your spoon to make sure each leaf is immersed. Cook for two minutes then use your spider to drain and transfer immediately to the ice bath to shock it. Let sit in the ice water for a couple minutes then remove straining again (thoroughly) and transfer to a holding plate or bowl.

Immediately dump the old chard water out, refill with fresh water, and put over high heat again to bring to a boil. Once boiling, add another handful of salt, let come back to a boil and add the penne. Cook for 6 minutes or just until al dente and drain.

Put the drained pasta back into the pot and drizzle with about a half tablespoon (or more) of the lemon olive oil (if you don't have lemon olive oil then you can add in the zest of one lemon.) Stir well then add in the Parmesan and a good bit of fresh cracked pepper and stir again. Add in the chard breaking it up as it clumps together once cooked and stir again. Season with a good bit of fresh grated nutmeg, another good pinch of salt, and the thyme leaves. Finally add in the cooked squash and toasted walnut pieces stirring in gently.

Serve in big bowls with a slice of creamy goat cheese dropped in the center (or more Parmesan for goat cheese haters) with a final sprinkling of sea salt over the top.


Design Wine and Dine said...

I need to cook with Swiss Chard more! I think I did once! You're inspiring me! This sounds amazing! What a perfect fall pasta dish!!

Karen said...

I think Swiss Chard is SO pretty, but I've never made it. I need to put that on my to-try list.

Stephanie Savors the Moment said...

Fabulous post and yes, the color of that Swiss Chard is just gorgeous! I bet it is delicious in the pasta as well! What red wine did you end up drinking with it? Do tell - Cheers!

Jenn said...

I crave pasta too...but usually with lot of cheese :) This looks wonderful. Don't laugh, but I still haven't even TRIED swiss chard yet!!!

newlywed said...

This looks great! I love the combination of pasta and butternut squash...two of my favorite things.

lisa is cooking said...

I love greens with pasta, and squash with greens is a great combo too! This looks fantastic.

Pam said...

What a beautiful and delicious pasta dish.

Sanjeeta kk said...

Lovely recipe, like the veggies in it.

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

Stephanie - I think I was drinking handy old merlot that night but I just heated up the frozen leftovers last night and drank Sauvignon Blanc with it - the best pairing I can remember in recent months. And it was just Estancia! I think it was the zing of the goat cheese that complemented the wine so well. Delish! And cheers to you darling!

Jessica said...

This looks to die for! I have been trying to find a way to play with Swiss Chard, it's so beautiful! This fits it perfectly, because I love squash and cinnamon.
I HAVE to try this. So forgive me if I do and then blog about it (with a link to your post of course), because it's just too fabulous to pass up!