orecchiette with (lemony) walnut pesto and roasted butternut squash

for this recipe i’ve combined three of my favorite things to eat: orecchiette pasta (with any sauce, really), fresh home made (lemony) walnut pesto, and roasted butternut squash- they’re being combined to make a light and easy early summer (is it summer yet?) dish that is healthy and really satisfies. roasted butternut squash is amazingly flavorful, hearty, and somewhat sweet-you can add it to any salad, eat it with quinoa or brown rice, or add it to almost any creamy soup for an additional burst of flavor.

for the pesto:
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts & 1/4 cup pine nuts (i usually prefer to use 1/2 cup walnuts only)
  • 6 cups fresh (packed) basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups good extra virgin olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 a small lemon *optional, but recommended
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup) 
1. place nuts and garlic in a food processor with a steel blade, process for 30-40 seconds, then add basil leaves , sea salt, and pepper. while processor is running, pour olive oil in through the feed tube. 
2. when pesto is finely pureed, add parmesan cheese and process for another minute. you can save and serve the extra pesto later with pasta or as a spread on your sandwiches, as a topping on your baked potatoes or soups, or to flavor your stews. 
3. to store in refrigerator or freezer, cover with a thin film of olive oil in a jar with a lid.   
for the oven roasted butternut squash
  • 1 butternut squash-cubed (see below)-roast the whole squash, but use only 1/4-1/2 of the roasted  cubes for the pasta-save the rest for a salad or soup, or eat with cooked quinoa or brown rice.
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 shallot, finely chopped

process as follows: cut the ends off the squash, then cut it in half (carefully), peel each half, slice, then cube. place the cubed squash and shallots in a bowl and add the olive oil & spices, combine.

spread the mixture on a sheet pan and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.

while the squash is cooking, boil about 4-5 cups salted water for the orecchiette, then cook per package instructions. prior to draining, put a few teaspoons (4-5) of the pesto in the bowl and add about 2-3 tablespoons of hot water from the (almost cooked) pasta to the pesto, stir together. drain the pasta when cooked, and add to the bowl with pesto, some roasted squash, and quickly toss…add more fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese and top with a few roasted cubes of butternut squash…enjoy!

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