Sunday, December 9, 2012

Noodly Goodness

It's time for some supper. I've made post after post of baked goods and treats -- indulgent and healthy breakfast worthy treats -- but now I think it's time for some supper.  Yes, supper. Some winter-comfort-in-a-bowl supper.

Where I live, winter is a bit wonky. It's warm and balmy one day, sunny and icy-cold the next, and then rainy and dreary for a week after that. It snowed a tiny bit, but nothing that lingered, and right now, there's a freezing rain alert out there. It's definitely not a picture perfect winter with bright sunny skies and fluffy snow on the ground, although I remember a time when there was. Last winter was rainy and mild, and I'm not yet sure what winter has in store for us this year, but whatever it may be, I know I'll definitely need quick, comforting suppers to drive away the overcast blues.

It's definitely stew and soup season, and I've got a few that I'll post soon, but today, it's all about the noodles. For awhile, I avoided pasta, partly because of the bad reputation that carbs were getting, and partly because pasta was beginning to not sit right in my stomach. Since discovering brown rice pasta, those days are over. And this dish is the perfect celebration of pasta. Spirally noodles mingle with toothsome black beluga lentils and velvety ribbons of spinach, all held together in a creamy sauce made from pureed squash and plenty of garlic. It's so totally simple, with fresh, natural flavours -- no overwhelming spices, just the beautiful, fresh, sweetness of vegetables hanging out with the mellow, woodsy lentils and pasta. It reminds me of macaroni and cheese because of the creamy squash, but it's totally vegan, heart-healthy and more than delicious.

For this beautiful noodle dinner, I would definitely take the time to roast and puree your own squash. It's simple and so much better than the canned stuff. Plus, if you can get your hands on an ambercup squash or kabocha squash, the flavour is out of this world -- sweet, nutty, buttery .. perfect in this pasta dish, but also in pies and sweet baked goods. All you do split the squash, and after scooping out the seedy slimy bits, cut them into chunks and roast them cut-side down in an inch of water for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until their they're super soft and tender. Let them cool down a bit, then the skins come off easily. Throw all the flesh into a pot, add a bit of water and then blend using a hand-blender. I stored my leftover squash in a sealed glass container, and it kept fine for a week.

Happy Winter!

Pasta and Lentils with Squash and Spinach
inspired by Everybody Likes Sandwiches
serves 2-3

2 cups of dried spirally pasta (rotini or fusili)
1/2 cup of dried beluga lentils

1 large clove of garlic
olive oil
1 cup of pureed squash
1 small bunch of spinach, washed and chopped
1/2 cup of water or stock
1 teaspoon of herbes de Provence
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. Cook the lentils in water for about 15 minutes, or until they are tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.

3. While the pasta and lentils are cooking, prepare the sauce. Saute the garlic in olive oil over low heat until things get soft and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper and herbes de Provence.

4. Add the spinach and stock. Stir well and turn up the heat to medium. Cook until the liquid comes up to a boil. Add the squash and stir well.  Add the lentil and pasta and give it a good mix.

5. Let the mixture hang out together for a few more minutes over low heat, adding a bit of stock if things start to get too dry.

6. Serve immediately.

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