Time for a new Honest Project recipe; one that is perfect for November evenings when only pasta will do. For me, a pasta dinner falls firmly into the category of a treat dinner. Italian food is my favourite; I adore basil, tomatoes, truffle, balsamic, beautiful extra virgin olive oil; list goes on and on. When I started being more considered about what I ate, I swapped out regular pasta for wholegrain pasta. Much of the nutritional advice I read was to replace refined carbohydrates with wholegrain carbohydrates. So brown rice instead of white, wholegrain pasta instead of regular. For rice, I much prefer brown to white, so that isn't a challenge at all. However for pasta, I just don't feel the same love for wholegrain pasta as I do for beautiful fresh egg pasta. So my compromise is to eat less of it, but when I do eat pasta to choose the fresh egg variety. But listen, for this recipe, opt for whatever pasta you like best yourself.
To keep things seasonal the hero ingredient is butternut squash. I am really trying to eat with the seasons as much as I can. I'm not sure I will ever get there 100% - I love bananas too much and let me tell you, they are never in season here in Ireland - but I'm so much better than I was. Butternut squash is very versatile and affordable; expect to see it feature in other Honest Project recipes this Winter. For this dish it is paired with black olives which I buy pitted and in a jar, fresh basil and a generous serving of a cheese that is very similar to parmesan in taste, but is vegetarian. If you wish to use parmesan, that works perfectly.
I made this pasta a few times over the past month or so. I photographed it a few weeks ago, popped it on my InstaStories and then completely forgot to write up the recipe. That is until this morning when I needed an excuse to stop tidying my bedroom half way through.
Just to digress from the recipe for a moment; tidying seems like a constant exercise for me and as such I came to the conclusion that I've been taking the wrong approach to tidying and to de-cluttering. I read Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying" and her advice for banishing clutter is to stop de-cluttering by location and instead de-clutter by category. For example, she says don't think: "I'll tidy the bedroom first and then move onto the next room". Rather approach de-cluttering on a category basis; e.g. paperwork, toiletries, clothes, etc. This makes total sense to me and so this morning I began, with great intentions to spend hours de-cluttering. I started with knitwear and still feeling enthusiastic and energised moved onto underwear, socks and tights. Finding 40 pairs of black opaque tights in various degrees of conditions was enough to make me throw the whole lot out and start from ground zero in the tights department. An hour into de-cluttering, I had enough and so here I am, retired to my desk to do anything but de-clutter; a great excuse to write up this recipe.
Keep scrolling for my Roast Butternut Squash, Black Olive & Basil Pasta recipe; the perfect Autumn / Winter comfort dinner. How often do you hear the word 'comfort' used to describe food at this time of year. I promise, not to use it again. Serves 4
1 small to medium size butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes (weights approx 500g)
320g fresh egg pasta (weighed uncooked)
20 black olives, pitted and halved
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
50g vegetarian parmesan
Small handful of fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning
Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas 5. Toss the butternut squash in a tablespoon of olive oil and place on a roasting tray. Season with sea salt and black pepper and roast in the oven until tender and beginning to brown. This takes about 25 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and set to one side.
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted water until al dente. The cooking time will depend on the type of pasta you use. Drain the pasta, saving a little of the cooking water, about a 1/4 of a cup.
In a large pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and red chilli and cook over a low heat for 2 minutes before adding the roast squash and black olives. Cook for a further minute or so using the back of a wooden spoon to break down the squash cubes a little. Add half the grated cheese and the cooked pasta and toss well. Add about a quarter of a cup of the saved starchy pasta cooking water and season with sea salt and black pepper. Toss again to combine.
Serve in four pasta bowls, drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil, with freshly torn basil leaves and with a sprinkling of the remaining grated cheese.