It is Friday night in New York City and I am staying in. I have an early train to catch – tomorrow I am spending the day hiking with a friend. As we near the end of September, I can only hope our hike is filled with the vibrant oranges and yellows of fall foliage.
I have always been a fan of fall; I have vivid memories of leaves crunching under my feet while apple-picking with my family and the smell of butter-soaked corn being served in the husk at the orchard. A few years ago, something shifted; September wasn’t just about Halloween candy and costumes sneaking into the aisles at the drugstore. The pillars of Halloween and Thanksgiving were suddenly plunged into the abyss of pumpkin spice candles and scented pine cones (let’s be honest – I don’t hate it).
Looking around my apartment on this lazy September evening I am embarrassed to admit that I already have a pumpkin, a pumpkin spice candle, and a glass vase filled with a twig/cranberry/foliage bouquet. Suffice it to say, I am totally in on this season. And (duh) it carries over to my cooking – you can bet I’ll be posting some pumpkin-themed dishes. For now, check out this fall-themed pasta inspired by Hungry Happens. It works as a healthy version of macaroni and cheese and, in retrospect, could be even more amazing with a few pinches of cinnamon (or, if you must, pumpkin spice).
2 large sweet potatoes
3 large carrots, washed and de-stemmed
2 cups of butternut squash cubes (I bought this in bulk at Whole Foods)
1 large yellow onion
2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (although the more cheese the better!)
1 bag of Fusilli or Rotini pasta noodles
1/3 cup of almond milk
1 1/5 cups of vegetable broth
1 7 oz container of Fage yogurt (whole fat)
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh or dried sage leaves (if fresh, dice the leaves)
Olive oil, salt, pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook your pasta al dente (slightly undercooked), according to the directions on the bag. Set aside. It will cook that last little bit during the final bake!
Place the sweet potatoes, as is, on a baking tray. Add the butternut squash cubes, drizzling on a touch of oil to moisten the chunks. Use a fork to poke holes around the sweet potatoes. Bake for 45+ minutes or until the squash and potatoes have softened. Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 350 degrees.
Place the cooked squash into a large bowl and add the flesh of the sweet potatoes (when mine were finished baking it was relatively easy to remove the potato skin and discard it). Use a potato masher or a fork to break up the chunks until things seem consistently mushy and mashed.
While cooking the potatoes and squash, dice up your onion and carrot. In a large pot (I used a wok) add about a tablespoon of olive oil and your diced carrots and onions. Saute both until the onions are glassy. Add the potato and squash mixture along with the vegetable broth and combine everything thoroughly over medium heat. Cook the ingredients for roughly 7-10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta and vegetable mixture, stirring thoroughly. Add the Greek yogurt, almond milk, and 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese and continue to stir until fully distributed and coated. Taste a noodle or two and add salt and pepper as desired – and even some cinnamon if you’d like!
Pour into a large oven-safe baking dish and top with the sage and remaining cheddar cheese. Bake the dish for 15 minutes and let cool before serving!
*Note: I stored mine overnight in the refrigerator before serving and the pasta seemed to dry out a bit. I would recommend serving fresh from the oven!