I try to avoid pasta dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I love pasta, but because I love it soooooo much, it’s better if I don’t make it. Before I know it, the whole bowl is gone.
But my husband is part Italian, so I try to make him pasta every once in awhile. And while I love the traditional spaghetti and meatballs, I can’t do it justice the way his Italian mother does, so I have to pave my own pasta way into his heart.
Enter this Fall Pasta dish. I love cooking with the season. For me, it gives me a fuller life experience. If I’m smelling and tasting what is relevant in the moment, I enjoy it that much more. This dish is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the palate. Seriously, it’s beautiful in every way. It has the fall colors, and it has warmth from the red pepper flakes. It’s perfectly filling for these cooler fall evenings. It serves as your meat, veggie, and carb, so it’s almost a one-pot miracle.
Turn on your favorite music and let’s get to work. Right now, I can’t stop listening to U2’s new album, Songs of Innocence. I turn it wide open and melt into my zone in the kitchen.
2 medium-sized butternut squash
1 box of cavatelli pasta
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs of grass-fed, organic ground beef (seriously, it tastes better)
1/3 cup of red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon — use whatever you would drink. If you wouldn’t drink it, you won’t like the taste.)
1 8oz jar of sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes ( I tend to put more because I love heat, so adjust this according to your taste buds)
16 oz of fresh spinach
Parmesan cheese (do NOT buy the prepackaged shredded cheese. I don’t care how much time it saves, it doesn’t taste nearly as delicious. People complain that their recipes don’t taste as good as mine, and this is usually the reason why – you have to use higher quality and fresher ingredients. So buy a triangle or a square of the good stuff. Your taste buds will thank you.)
Preheat your oven to 450F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Peel and clean out the seeds of butternut squash (for this recipe, I do not use the seeds like I did in the salad last week). Dice them into one inch cubes and toss on the pans with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, giving them a toss halfway through. Take out and set aside.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to boil, add a couple pinches of salt and the box of cavatelli. Boil 11 minutes, drain and set aside.
While the squash is roasting and the water is boiling, prepare the meat.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, (get the biggest pan you have because you’re going to need it!) add a couple drizzles of olive oil and sauté the diced onion until it’s translucent, about 7 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the ground beef along with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until the meat is no loner pink, making sure you crumble the meat. Add the red wine and let it cook down for a minute, scraping up all the small bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the sun-dried tomatoes are heated through. Add half of the roasted butternut squash into the meat mixture, add the cavatelli pasta, and the fresh spinach. Now toss it all together in the pan (almost like you would a salad dish) until the spinach begins to wilt. Taste and check for salt and pepper seasonings.
Serve in large shallow bowls. Top it with some of the leftover roasted butternut squash, freshly ground pepper, and freshly-grated parmesan-reggiano cheese.
I serve this with cabernet sauvignon. It’s heavenly and absolutely perfect for a cool fall evening.
My husband devoured two bowls of it and finished off the leftovers the following two days, so I’ll just leave it at that.