A large part of learning to cook as an adult is the willingness (on my part) to try new things. As the recipient of my trial and error dishes, Hubby is a bit more skeptical. He’s a basic meat and potatoes kind of guy and also loves his carbs.
Veggies in particular don’t thrill him, unless they are covered with cheese or sauce. Since retiring, I have been on a mission to eat healthier so created this yummy side dish that was a hit with both Hubby and his Dad and there were no leftovers. (I served this with a barbecued tri tip.) The squash, when made al dente, has a similar tooth to a pasta noodle and doesn’t contribute much to the flavor, which is carried almost exclusively by the pesto sauce.
I found butternut squash “noodles” in packages at the local grocery store, but you could make your own if you have one of those fancy spiral kitchen tools. A big consideration is to make sure they are absolutely fresh or they will be slimy and give off a vinegary smell and taste. Buy them before the noted “use by” date and use that night, or spiral the same day you will make the dish.
I have made pesto using pine nuts in the past, but they are soooo expensive ($8 for 4 ounces!!!). Walnuts have an earthier taste and darken the pesto to a nice forest green and are far cheaper. If making the pesto in advance, you will want to put it in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap touching the actual pesto then refrigerate to keep it from becoming brown. (But if it does brown, just mix it up. It doesn’t affect the taste.) If not using the same day, you can freeze in a small, airtight container or an ice cube tray covered with plastic wrap.
Variations: You can use different olive oils to enhance the flavor. I am a devoted fan of Big Paw Olive Oil Company and keep a stock of several of their flavors on hand. A favorite is the Basil Garlic, which I used in this recipe. More or less garlic can be used, depending on taste. You will want to season with salt and pepper fairly aggressively to bring out the flavors.
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 bunch fresh basil (came out to about 5 lightly packed cups of leaves)
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (flavored if you like)
- Additional 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 16 ounces butternut squash “noodles”
- Optional: Grated parmesan cheese, finely chopped walnuts for topping before serving.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and spread the walnuts in a single layer.
- Toast for 8 minutes until just browned and fragrant. Allow to cool.
- In a food processor or chopper (I use the Nutri Bullet), place the nuts, basil leaves, garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Process.
- Continue to slowly add the remainder of the olive oil until the mixture is smooth. (I personally like my pesto a bit on the chunky side.)
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large fry pan or wok.
- Sautee the squash noodles for 3 minutes, then add the pesto and gently toss.
- Optional: Garnish with parmesan cheese and extra nuts.
I served this quickee dessert with the meal …
Red Anjou Pears with Granola Topping
- 2 red anjou pears
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup granola
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup honey
- Toast the nuts per the directions above. Since I was making the pesto, I just toasted extra for this recipe.
- Combine the nuts, granola, cinnamon, vanilla and honey in a small bowl and mix until granola is fully covered with the honey.
- Cut the pears in half and scoop out the seeds, creating a small half circle.
- Brush the pears with the melted butter.
- Divide the nut mixture into four parts and fill each pear halve.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes on a tinfoil lined cookie sheet.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Optional: Serve with vanilla ice cream.