Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese

One of my favorite cheeses of all is goat cheese. I love it. So creamy, tangy, and delicious. Mmmm… yummy.

So when I saw this recipe from Giada at home, I knew I was in for a treat. A friend requested that I post a recipe with sweet potatoes and goat cheese, and this is not that, but it’s close, right? Sweet potatoes, butternut squash — same diff. Kind of. I’ll have to think up a recipe involving sweet potatoes and goat cheese later. Any excuse to incorporate goat cheese into a recipe!

This was an easy recipe to put together, but it is a bit time consuming. The squash takes a while to roast, so make sure you give yourself about an hour and 15 minutes of prep. and cooking time, or more if you’re peeling and cutting the squash yourself. (I bought pre-peeled and cut squash to save some time.)

Penne with butternut squash and goat cheese (4 to 6 servings)
Cooking spray – vegetable oil or olive oil
2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
Olive oil for drizzling
Freshly ground salt and pepper
1 lb. penne pasta
8 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (chop walnuts after toasting)
1 packed cup chopped, fresh basil
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

Put an oven rack in the top third of the oven, and set your oven at 425° F.

Spray a baking sheet liberally with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the squash and onion. Drizzle with olive oil and mix thoroughly so that everything is coated in oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the baking sheet and cook for 40-45 minutes until squash is tender. Keep an eye on the onions — I wound up with a few burnt pieces because they were in the oven for a bit too long (Confession: I got distracted watching the Vampire Diaries on Netflix. Hey, what can I say? I’m a sucker for trashy TV shows). Once the veggies are done cooking, remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash and onions are cooling, toast the walnuts. This can be done in the oven or on the stovetop. I prefer the stovetop so I can keep an eye on them. Heat walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for one two minutes, tossing or stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant. Set aside.

Make pasta in a large pot, following the directions on the package. When it’s done, reserve about a cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta.

In a large serving bowl add pasta, goat cheese, and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pasta water. Toss until the cheese has melted and formed a creamy sauce. The original recipe calls for 1 cup of water but I thought this would be too much. You can add as little or as much water as you like, depending how thin you want the cheese sauce.

Add squash and onions, walnuts, and basil. Toss well, and season with salt and pepper. Top it off with parmesan and you’re good to go. The end result is a creamy, flavorful, and filling pasta dish packed with veggies. Enjoy!

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The Ultimate Comfort Food

This past week wasn’t the greatest, so, naturally I found myself craving comfort food. Comfort food could mean a lot of different things to different people, but to me it usually involves cheese. Sorry, vegans. Like the title of the blog implies, I am not quite vegan. And that, my friends, is because of cheese. It’s just so good! Anyway, I came across this recipe on Pinterest a couple of weeks ago and I knew I had to try it. (Side note: I now have a fancy new Pinterest button on the sidebar if you would like to follow me!) As this week came to an end, I found myself thinking about this recipe. A lot. I just had to make it.

So what is the recipe? Prepare yourself…

Gnocchi Mac ‘n Cheese.

OK, so I guess it’s not mac n’ cheese if it’s not made with macaroni. So maybe this should be called gnocc n’ cheese. Hmm… doesn’t quite have that same ring to it. I’m actually not a huge fan of regular macaroni and cheese, so the idea of gnocchi and cheese sounded so delicious — little bit of a heartier meal. Gnocchi, if you’ve never tried it before, are little dumplings, usually made out of potato flour. You can find it in the pasta section, but it’s not sold everywhere, so you might have to hunt around. If  you’re wondering how to pronounce gnocchi, it’s like nyokey. I consider myself a gnocchi-pronouncing expert because I used to work for a guy from Italy, and that is how he said it.

Anyway, the recipe can be found on The Cutting Edge of Ordinary. You can also check out her beautiful/drool-worthy pictures, because I of course had horrible lighting and my pictures did not turn out so wonderfully.

It looks so good, right? Mmm… and it was.

She used basil in hers, but I did not have any so I chopped up some fresh rosemary to add to my cheese sauce. But they’re both optional.

Speaking of the cheese sauce, if you’ve never used gruyere or fontina, fear not — they are DELICIOUS. Or at least I thought so. It was my first time trying them, and I was a little nervous I wouldn’t like them, but I. loved. them. I have leftovers in my fridge and I will relish every last bite.

Gnocc’ & Cheese
1 lb. gnocchi
2 Tbsp. butter
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. dijon mustard (I used spicy brown)
1/4 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese (except fontina is a little too soft to shred, so i chopped mine into small pieces)
Salt & white pepper to taste (regular pepper would be fine, too)
1/3 cup shredded parmigiano-reggiano (or regular parm would be fine, too)
Rosemary or basil for garnish (chopped and added to cheese sauce)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. If you’ve never used gnocchi before, they cook super fast — they only need to boil for 2-3 minutes before they are done. You will know they’re done when they all rise to the top of the water, like this:

Drain your gnocchi in a colander, and add to a greased 1 1/2 qt. baking dish.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add your garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds — until your kitchen smells wonderful (if you like the smell of garlic, that is… but who doesn’t?) Whisk in flour until it gets a bit thick and bubbly, then add your milk and mustard. Whisk away. Keep on whiskin’ til’ it gets slightly thick, about 3-5 minutes.

Combine your gruyere and fontina, and add into your saucepan one handful at a time. Whisk cheese in until it melts before adding the next handful. Once it is all cheesey, gooey, melty, and delicious, season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over your gnocchi, and sprinkle parm cheese over the top. Bake until golden and a little bit crispy — about 30 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Ohmygoshyes.

I am so sad I don’t have leftovers in my fridge right now. This baby only serves about three. Enjoy it while it lasts.