Over the last several years, butternut squash has continued to gain popularity. Once a novelty fruit (yes, it is technically a fruit), the orange, pumpkin-like squash now adorns and stars in dishes on a regular basis. Draw whichever analogy you will -- Cady Heron àla Mean Girls, Amanda Beckett via Can't Hardly Wait, Blair Waldorf circa Gossip Girl Season 1 --butternut squash is currently the fruit world's "it girl" and she has the hourglass figure to prove it.
Beyond her mass appeal and general likability, butternut squash also carries the reputation of "power food." Power foods 1) pack a nutritional punch, 2) are low in calories, and 3) have preventative power against various diseases. More specifically, butternut squash contains high amounts of Vitamins A, B, and C as well as carotenoids (aka "antioxidants"), folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. The aforementioned vitamins and nutrients improve brain health and function, prevent against diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and heart disease, support healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns, and boost immune system function. The icing on an already delicious cake is that butternut squash will only cost you 82 calories and .2 grams of fat per 1 cup serving. Delicious on the lips, beautiful on the hips. What is not to love?
I made sure to include butternut squash on my grocery list last week and found a recipe that showcased the amazing power food: Pappardelle with Roasted Butternut Squash, Watercress, Pine Nuts, and Asiago. Originally, the recipe called for arugula instead of watercress, but I figured I would up the nutritional content even more by including fresh watercress as it is considered to be one of the most highly nutritious vegetables. As such, the list of health benefits reaped by eating watercress is too long to comprehensively list here but includes: protection against many forms of cancer, improved memory and mental function, and improved digestion. To get the most nutritional bang for your buck, be sure to eat watercress as fresh as possible.
Alright, now that you know that this meal is healthy, let's talk about the most important part: taste! This dish is awesomely tasty. The flavor palate is reminiscent of a comfort food and the variety of ingredients creates a harmony between sweet and savory. This is a dish that will undoubtedly lure you back in for seconds, and there will be no need to feel guilty if you decide to give in and refill your plate.
Modified from Cooking Light
4 cups 1-inch cubed and peeled butternut squash
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt, divided
8 ounces uncooked Pappardelle pasta (wide ribbon pasta)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 head fresh watercress (about 2 cups)
½ cup grated Asiago cheese
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees
2. Combine squash, balsamic, olive oil, and ¼ tsp sea salt in a bowl and toss to coat. Arrange squash mixture on a pan in a single layer. Bake at 475 degrees for 25 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
3. While squash bakes, cook Pappardelle according to package instructions (omitting any salt or oil). Drain in a colander and reserve 1 tbsp cooking liquid.
4. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts, sage, and garlic; cook until pine nuts are lightly toasted and begin to brown (approximately 3 minutes).
6. Trim fresh watercress from roots and set aside.
5. Place Pappardelle, reserved cooking liquid, pine nut mixture, and squash mixture in a large bowl; toss gently to combine.
6. Add remaining ¼ tsp sea salt, watercress, asiago, and black pepper; toss gently. Serve immediately and enjoy!