Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pasta with Spinach and Butternut Squash Sauce

I discovered this recipe a few years ago when I was trying to look for healthy versions for a creamy pasta dish. At the time it was a foreign idea to use squash as a sauce, but I tried it and we really enjoyed it. Since then I've seen it all over the place. You can even buy butternut squash pasta sauces in a jar. I can promise you though, this is better than anything you could buy in a jar.

The original recipe calls for sausage, which I can imagine would be VERY delicious, but I obviously omitted it. It also calls for fresh sage leaves. I never have fresh herbs on hand and I never can justify the money in buying them for just one dish (remember, starving student mode here...) but by all means add it. I'm sure it's delicious. (Aside: this is probably what separates me from the REAL food bloggers and makes me a mediocre cook. Someday when finances are easier, maybe I will be able to fulfill my food blogging potential and splurge on the good stuff!)


Pasta with Spinach and Butternut Squash Sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Servings: 5

Tip: Peeling a butternut squash is no fun. Here's how I've started to do it: poke the squash all over with a sharp knife and then stick it in the microwave for 7-9 minutes, let it cool and then it's soft enough to peel and seed easily. 

1lb butternut squash, peeled and diced (about the size of a medium squash)
2 TB butter
12 oz of pasta (rotini, bowtie, etc.)
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

  • In a large pot, bring salted water to boil
  • Add butternut squash to water and boil until it is fork tender
  • Remove squash from water with slotted spoon and place in blender and blend until smooth
  • Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions 
  • While pasta boils, melt butter in large, deep skillet and saute onions and garlic until soft
  • Add squash to onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Add baby spinach and parmesan cheese to sauce
  • If sauce is a little thick, add some pasta water until it reaches your desired consistency
  • Add cooked and drained pasta to sauce and mix until coated

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Spinach Balls

(apology: I seriously tried to think of a different name for this recipe, but I couldn't do it. Spinach rounds was the closest I got, but didn't quite work. So I just stuck with spinach balls, which does not sound appetizing at all. But I promise, read on and you won't be disappointed. Also, I use the word "balls" a lot in this post...)

On a recent road trip our family stopped at Subway for lunch...probably for the fifth time this summer. Its really the only place that's vegetarian friendly and quick. Plus they're everywhere! Well, we go up to order and I place an order for a meatball sub. My husband gives me a weird side-look and moves on. He later told me he didn't know I liked meatball subs. I guess after 9 years of marriage, there's still LOTS we don't know about each other. But the truth is, yes, I do love me a good meatball sub. Maybe it's the bostonian inside of me? Not sure. But I just can't resist a perfectly seasoned meatball swimming in a lovely sauce topped with melted provolone on warm and chewy bread. Hmm so good.

Well that one meatball sub set off a craving for meatballs a few weeks ago. I wondered if I could make a delicious meatball myself at home. So I decided to make them for dinner one night and also make a vegetarian version for my husband. (I'm so nice, aren't I?) I found this recipe from My Kitchen is My Playground and thought I'd give it a try. I was skeptical, but they turned out awesome! I even liked them better than that actual meatballs I made. Turns out I can't make a decent meatball, but I sure can turn out some fantastic spinach balls.

The recipe makes a ton of balls, so I would suggest making the full recipe and then freezing the ones you don't eat for future meals or halving it. The picture above is from one of those freezer meals. I remembered I had some in the freezer and I stuck some in the oven to defrost and crisp up and we had them with some rotini. When my son (4) saw what we were having for dinner he was so excited and kept telling us how much he loves meatballs. He scarfed them down and asked for seconds. It wasn't until after we finished eating that we informed him that he had just eaten spinach balls. Surprisingly he was just fine with it and asked to have them again sometime. Mom for the win!

Ok, now on to the recipe. I didn't stray at all from Tracey's recipe. The only thing I changed was I made my balls just a bit bigger. I used my 1.5T cookie scoop to kind of evenly portion them out. To freeze them, let them cool off after baking and stick in a freezer bag in the freezer. Then you can pull out the amount you need for each meal.


Spinach Balls
Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes Servings: 6-8

Notes: not all stuffing mixes are vegetarian, but Pepperidge Farm is. 

2 10oz. packages frozen spinach
2 small onions, finely minced
2 1/4 cup herbed stuffing mix
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper

  • Defrost and drain the spinach, making sure all the water is drained off
  • In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until combined
  • Form into desired sized balls and place on a greased cookie sheet 
  • Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until balls are starting to brown and cooked through 
  • Serve with your favorite pasta and sauce or as a lovely meatball sub alternative