Holy smokes. This dish is something I had made for a few years- it’s semi-healthy comfort food at its finest. But, I’m not exactly on the gluten or dairy train anymore, so I haven’t touched it for awhile. Yesterday, I decided to give it a whirl with a handful of changes- and man, was it amazing! That is one of the things I’ve learned over the past 8 months or so- with a few changes, I can still make food that I love. Kirk loved it, Sydney tried it and seemed semi-impressed, Reid wouldn’t touch it (he’s 4, so don’t go by his judgment). I love using chickpea pasta for this because aside from bacon, there’s no meat. Chickpeas add so much protein (and fiber!) to make this truly filling. To make this truly dairy-free involves some planning and effort since dairy-free creme fraiche takes some time. It’s not complicated, just takes time in the fridge overnight. BUT IT IS SO WORTH IT. Trust me. I wouldn’t steer you wrong!
Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon and Kale (adapted from Cooking Light)
- 5 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (small size works best)
- 1 T. olive oil
- 12 ounces short-shaped chickpea or lentil pasta, such as fusilli, farfalle, or ziti
- 4 cups shopped kale
- 4 bacon slices (look for nitrate-free)
- 2 cups vertically-sliced yellow onion
- 1 t. salt, divided
- 5 garlic cloves, minced (or more if you love it. I won’t judge)
- 2 cups organic, good quality chicken broth, divided (I apologize for sounding like Ina Garten)
- 2 T. arrowroot starch
- 1 cup dairy-free creme fraiche (such as this)
- 1/3 cup vegan parmesan cheese (such as this), optional
- The night before, make the creme fraiche if necessary. If you don’t give AF about dairy, just use regular creme fraiche. That’s cool too.
- While you’re at it, chop up the squash and onion the night before too. Trust me, this is a huge time-saver. DO IT.
- When you’re ready to make the dish, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss squash (that you’ve already chopped up, look at you!) and olive oil together to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes or until squash is tender. Don’t be scared if it gets a little browned. That’s the good stuff.
- Cook pasta according to package directions until almost al dente. Throw the kale in for the last 2 minutes or so. Drain the pasta mixture.
- Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Seriously, get it CRISP. Nobody likes chewy bacon in a casserole- give the people what they want. Remove bacon from pan and let cool on paper towels. Enjoy the bacon-y smell of your kitchen.
- Add onion to bacon drippings in pan (oh yeahhh) and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 teaspoon sale and the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Crumble bacon, try not to eat it right now.
- Bring 1 3/4 cups broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Combine remaining 1/4 cup broth and arrowroot starch in a small bowl, stirring until starch is dissolved. Add starch mixture and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in creme fraiche. Taste it because it’s magical.
- Combine squash, pasta mixture, bacon, onion mixture, and amazing sauce in a large bowl and toss gently to coat. Throw it in a 9×13 glass baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes (if using parmesan cheese) or 25 minutes (if not using cheese).
- If you are adding cheese, remove dish from oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Then throw it back in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Voila! Eat it all. Serve it to friends and impress them. Bring it to your friend that just had a baby and can’t eat dairy because her newborn gets cranky when she does. Just make this thing immediately!
I also think a good variation would be to reduce kale to 3 cups and add in 1 cup of zucchini, broccoli, or cauliflower rice. More veggies and you probably won’t even notice their presence. My favorite!
Sidenote: you can totally make this ahead and freeze it. Do everything up to putting it in the oven and freeze. When you want to use it, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake when you’re ready. So easy!