Creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinach

creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinachWell, it’s official, winter seems to have arrived. Today was the first really cold morning that I left the house wearing a winter coat, scarf, gloves and ear warmers. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with winter…snow is fun only during the first snowfall, until you have to shovel or dig out your car. I hate being cold but I love skiing, ice skating and hot chocolate (with marshmallows).

While I miss the warmer summer months, the best thing about winter (and the holidays) is all the rich food we get to eat! Holiday cookies, cakes, drinks – winter is definitely “eating” season. When you feel like curling up with a warm comforting dinner but you don’t want to completely ruin your diet, caramelized onion and spinach butternut squash pasta is the perfect dish. I had never thought to use squash as a pasta sauce until I found this recipe from Lauren’s Latest. Genius! The pureed butternut squash feels like a creamy, decadent sauce, but in reality you’re still eating your veggies! I added caramelized onions and spinach to bulk up the dish without adding meat, but you could surely add in chicken, sausage, etc.

creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinach

Use as much pasta water as you’d like to thin out the squash puree so that it’s “sauce” consistency. I mixed in tangy goat cheese and topped the pasta with some grated Parmesan…so creamy and delicious! For gluten-free or dairy-free diets, just use gluten-free pasta and leave out the cheese!

Creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinach
Yield: 2 servings with leftover squash puree

Ingredients:
1 lb cubed, peeled butternut squash
12 ounces whole wheat pasta (I used penne, any short pasta would work well) *use gluten-free pasta for gluten-free diets
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup reserved pasta water
salt, pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup goat cheese, optional *omit for dairy-free diets
Grated Parmesan for topping, optional *omit for dairy-free diets

Instructions:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta (reserving 1 cup pasta water) and return to pot.
2. Add baby spinach to pasta pot and toss until spinach wilts.
3. Bring a second large pot of water to boil and add cubed butternut squash. Cook for about 10 minutes (just like you would cook pasta) until squash is fork-tender.
4. Transfer squash to a large bowl and use an immersion blender to puree squash until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer squash to food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
*The squash puree can be made 1-2 days ahead of time. Just refrigerate in an air-tight container until ready to use.
5. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and add onions, sauteing over medium heat until they become soft and translucent.
6. Transfer pasta/spinach mixture into large pan and toss with onions.
7. Transfer pureed squash into large pan, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add reserved pasta water to thin out the squash to your desired consistency (I used the whole cup), tossing with pasta, spinach and onions over low heat until well-combined and heated through. Note that you may not need to use all the squash; just add enough to coat the pasta.
8. Optional — Once heated through, add goat cheese and mix well until melted.
9. Serve, top with grated Parmesan and enjoy!

Recipe source: Lauren’s Latest
Photography: Lighten Up Recipes

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