Jennifer Ruple

There’s something about winter squashes that just go hand in hand with comfort foods. Perhaps it’s their meaty qualities that add that extra layer of richness to our seasonal dishes. Or, maybe it’s their versatility in that they can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. The butternut squash takes center stage this week as we focus on the fruit’s savory qualities with three dishes perfect for chilly October evenings.
In the first recipe, butternut squash is presented in a spiralized form and paired with spaghetti and spicy-sweet Italian sausage. A fresh autumn salad features roasted squash dressed in a tangy-sweet maple balsamic vinaigrette. Finally, butternut squash amps up the creaminess in a classic – mac and cheese.
Light a candle, pull up a chair and dig into the fruits of the season.

Butternut Squash, Sausage and Sage
This recipe relies on a spiralizer to create noodle-like strands of squash. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to make long shreds of squash instead. Since you only need the top half of the butternut squash in this recipe, save the other half for another day and use it to make the Autumn Salad. Serves 4.

8 ounces spaghetti
Half of a medium butternut squash, about 12 ounces
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups kale, chopped
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook pasta according to directions.
Peel the butternut squash and spiralize on a thin noodle setting. Cut any very long strands in half.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon until it begins to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, sage, red pepper and cook, stirring about 1 minute.
Add butternut squash and toss to combine. Add wine and cook, covered, until the squash is just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add kale and toss to combine. Stir in cream and mustard and simmer until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Fold in cheese.
(Recipe adapted from womensday.com)

Autumn Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Tangy goat cheese and slightly sour cranberries are perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the butternut squash and maple vinaigrette in this colorful autumn salad. Whisk up the dressing a few hours before serving, so the flavors get a chance to fuse. Serves 4.

Dressing
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Salad
Half of 1 medium butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces fresh spinach
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a medium bowl, add dressing ingredients. Whisk until blended. Set aside.
Heat oven to 350 F. Coat butternut squash cubes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. On a baking sheet lined with foil, spread squash evenly in one layer. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until squash is tender.
While squash is roasting, assemble salad. In a large bowl, arrange spinach, onion, cranberries, cheese, and almonds.
Once the squash has cooled slightly, add it to salad. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
The creamy sweetness of the squash is balanced by the bacon’s saltiness in this classic comfort dish. Serves 6.

8 ounces dried pasta such as shells or spirals
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
4 slices precooked bacon, chopped
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Parsley for garnish

Heat oven to 425 F. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine squash and 11/4 cups milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until squash is soft.
While squash is cooking, sauté onion in butter until soft.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup of milk and flour and stir into squash mixture. Bring to a boil and cook 2-3 minutes until thickened. Add 3/4 cup gruyere to mixture and stir until melted.
In a large bowl, combine squash mixture, onion, half of the bacon and pasta. Transfer to a prepared baking dish.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Combine butter, breadcrumbs and remaining bacon. Sprinkle over cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until top has browned. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.
(Recipe adapted from midwestliving.com)