good morning! there is nothing better than comfort food on the weekends, right? we love pasta in our home…who doesn’t? all the different shapes……so fun! the problem with pasta, though, is the huge carb load, which, as we get older, isn’t cool. pasta, though, is my daughter’s favorite dinner, and she would be happy if i let her have angel hair with butter and olive oil 7 nights a week…the other problem is, what about protein? well, Barilla produces Barilla Plus, a multigrain pasta that contains 17 g of protein per 4 oz serving…problem solved! also, each serving contains 360 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids and 7 g of fiber…good and good for you!
i love to cook seasonally and experiment with various textures and food combinations…why not? what is the worst thing that can happen? no one will like it? with enough wine, everyone will love whatever you make…i promise! so, no worries! enough babbling! we need to get our day going! i recently made this menu for a group of moms, all dear friends, who helped with the costumes for our children’s 4th grade play…it was a thank-you for all the tireless work that went into creating 90+ costumes for 29 children…needless to say, a comfort-food meal was just the ticket! this dish also is pretty, as it has lots of orange, from the apricots and butternut squash, which embodies the autumn season. first, though, we’ll start with a nibble, dates wrapped in bacon, which is one of the easiest and most satisfying starters to serve….enjoy!
dates wrapped in bacon
autumn pasta with pancetta, butternut squash, rosemary, chicken & apricots
salad of baby kale, pomegranate, and oranges with a pomegranate vinaigrette
ice cream and cookies
dates wrapped in bacon
preheat your oven to 350-400 degrees. if the dates are unpitted, simply make a lengthwise incision along the date and pop out the pit. slice each piece of bacon into thirds and wrap each piece around the date…it is OK to stretch the bacon in order to wrap the bacon around the date…overlap the bacon a smidge, and secure with a toothpick, if desired. bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven…i usually watch around 25 minutes to ensure that the bacon doesn’t overcook. serve and enjoy….the dates retain heat, so let them rest a few minutes before serving.
now, onto our beautiful, seasonal pasta dish…..this pasta dish is colorful with orange and shades of pink from the pancetta…the sweetness of the apricots and roasted butternut squash are a fabulous contrast to the saltiness of the pancetta, and heavy cream makes your mouth say, “Yum”…generally, i like to prep my ingredients before my guests arrive, but realistically, that never happens…so, while everyone enjoys a glass (or two) of wine and the dates, i prepare the main course and chat…it is really fun to see what ingredients are going into the dish, and someone always wants to help and stir!
beautiful autumn pasta with rosemary, chicken, pancetta, roasted butternut squash, & apricots
– serves 6-8 people
1. debone the chicken and simply tear the chicken into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl (keep the bones – store in frig – you will see tomorrow).
2. preheat the oven to 400 degreees (or 375 degrees convection).
3. in a separate bowl, lightly coat the butternut squash with a splash of olive oil, then salt (about 4 shakes) and pepper (about 6 grinds). put the squash on a baking sheet (lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with your nonstick coating of choice – makes removal of the squash easier, and makes clean-up a cinch) in the oven and bake/roast for 25-30 minutes (you want the butternut squash to have a nice caramelized/browned appearance).
4. in a large sauté pan, sauté the pancetta until nicely browned, remove from the pan, and set aside. Pour off almost all of the bacon fat, then add the butter and a splish (less than a splash) of olive oil, and heat on low until the butter has melted….then add the rosemary and garlic, and sauté until the garlic has softened and you can smell the aroma of both herbs. add the apricots and a good healthy splash of wine, place a lid on the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes…you want to soften and plump the apricots without getting them mushy, so less time is fine…go ahead and taste.
5. when the butternut squash is done, simply set aside in a bowl…your counter will look so pretty!
6. decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees, place the walnut pieces on a baking sheet, and toast for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven
ok….now it’s time to put it all together…..
7. bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil (by well-salted, give about 6 shakes of kosher salt to 6 quarts of water), and add the pasta….this pasta needs to cook longer than regular pasta, and 8-9 minutes is realistic for al dente….but test it yourself.
8. in the meantime, add the chicken and pancetta to the sauté pan, stirring to heat through on medium-high heat. next, add the butternut squash and toasted walnuts, and gently toss together, so as not to break apart the squash. keep the dish on medium-low heat.
9. when the pasta is done, reserve a cup of your pasta water and set aside. drain the pasta well, and add to the sauté pan and mix well. add about 1/2 cup both of white wine and heavy cream….if you want more, add it, until the dish has the creaminess you desire. this is when i then add the pasta water: heat the dish through, have one of your friends stir, and add just enough (maybe only 1/2 cup) to help thicken a dish a bit. the starch from the water will thicken the dish a touch . toss in the parsley, add more salt and pepper to taste, stir, and serve in pasta bowls……..serve parmesean cheese on the side……let everyone grate this themselves to taste!
this salad recipe pairs beautifully with the pasta. the acids in the salad cut through the creaminess of the pasta, and are a nice contrast……
salad of baby kale, pomegranate, & oranges with a pomegranate vinaigrette – serves 6-8 people
1. if the greens are not pre-washed, go ahead and get this done. i prefer to buy the greens pre-washed, because i need all the time-saving steps i can get!
2. the hardest part of this recipe is removing the pomegranate seeds from the pomegranate……do this with a glass of wine……cut the pomegranate in half, and go to town……it will be worth it, i promise! This step can also be done ahead of time and the seeds stored in the frig. if you start doing this when your guests arrive, someone will become intrigued and want to do it!
3. remove the rind and pith from the oranges by cutting both layers away from the fruit with a knife. cut the oranges into bite-size pieces, and place in a separate bowl from the pomegranate seeds, or you will have pink oranges sections!
4. using a whisk, mix the vinegar, olive oil, & honey together. salt & pepper to taste.
5. just before serving dinner, mix all the salad ingredients together and serve to your guests…so easy, isn’t it?
Dessert? there is nothing better than a scoop of ice cream in a martini glass with a chocolate or ginger cookie on the side!