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Food & Health : Cooking & Packing Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Healthy Recipes: Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash
Jan 15, 2009 - 11:48:54 AM

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Publication Date: January 12, 2009              
Contact: Sarah Wally, 202/328-7744

Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash
from the American Institute for Cancer Research

This week’s recipe shakes up your uninspired pasta dinner with a seasonal addition of sweet roasted butternut squash. Enhanced by the flavors of sage and nutmeg, the dish has an earthy flavor. A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and whole-wheat breadcrumbs provide the perfect crunchy topping for this delicious one-pot meal.

 The beige-colored, pear-shaped butternut squash is sweet with a nutty flavor. An excellent source of vitamins A and C, it has been a part of the North American diet for more than 500 years thanks to its culinary use by Native Americans. Although it is available year round, this winter squash is in prime season during the cooler months of the year.

When buying, look for squash that feels heavy for its size and has hard skin free of blemishes. Some grocery stores carry butternut squash already cut and ready to use for extra convenience.

A drizzling of extra virgin olive oil on the finished dish adds a rich, savory taste and heightens the other flavors in the dish. Although high in calories, olive oil provides monounsaturated fat, which may help guard against heart disease. Just remember to use it sparingly.

Olive oil should be stored in a dark area with a fairly constant temperature, as air, heat and light can cause the flavor to be altered as a result of oxidation. Buying oil in small quantities or pouring a portion into a smaller container is a smart way to keep oil on hand while cooking, yet still protect the quality of your primary bottle.  

Regular olive oil is usually much lighter in color and blander in taste than virgin olive oil.  When cooking, save the more expensive extra-virgin olive oil for preparing vinaigrettes and salads dressings or for adding a final touch of seasoning to a dish, as we do here.

Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash

1 package (16 oz.) whole-grain rigatoni pasta
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
5 shallots, sliced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 butternut squash (about 2 lbs.), peeled,
  seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
5 medium sage leaves, chopped (about 1
  1/2-2 Tbsp.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook pasta per package directions, but cut cooking time by 2 minutes since pasta will keep cooking in the oven.  Drain and set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add shallots and cook until golden, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and being careful not to burn. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.   

Add squash and cook, covered, stirring often, about 10 minutes.  Add sage and broth. Cook uncovered 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Add milk and heat through, add grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, spoon pasta into 9x13 ceramic baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese to pasta and toss until well mixed.  Add squash mixture and mix well. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and remaining Parmesan.

Bake 30 minutes or until center is hot and top is golden. If desired, drizzle an additional 1 tablespoon of high quality extra virgin olive oil over pasta before serving.  

Makes 8 servings.

Per serving:  360 calories, 7 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 63 g carbohydrate,
13 g protein, 7 g dietary fiber, 300 mg sodium.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $87 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its Web site, AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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