Friday, December 2, 2011

Butternut Orecchiette Pasta with Sage Cream

Cashew cream...I love this stuff...all the pleasure of eating a creamy sauce without any guilt.  When we would serve cream-based pasta dishes at the restaurant I would dread having to continually taste the sauce because I knew that it was bad for me, but not with cashew cream.  This doesn't mean that you should consume it every day because it may contribute to a few pounds, but at least it won't cause high cholesterol and artery clogging heart disease.  Best thing about it though, you really can't tell the difference in terms of consistency and it actually tastes way better.  Another thing--to this day I still can't spell orecchiette--I always need to look it up in google!...:-)

You can use any pasta you like, but I prefer orecchiette (little ears in Italian) because the sauce pools within the pasta and you get a little sauce with every bite.  For an extra health benefit look for a whole wheat/grain version.  Also, you can use any type of squash that holds up well to roasting.

(Serves 4-6)

1 lb orecchiette pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, diced into 1" pieces (yields 4-6 cups depending on size--mine yielded 4 cups)
1 large leek, white and light parts only, diced, washed
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme
2 tbsp minced fresh sage
1/2 cup white wine, or brandy (brandy and sage/cream is a match made in heaven, but I didn't have any and so I used Pinot Grigio)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (I used Whole Foods 360 Brand), plus more for thinning if necessary
1 1/2 cups cashew cream (see below)
1 cup organic baby arugula or wild rocket
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
12 small-medium fried sage leaves (see below)
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees and toss squash with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for about 15 minutes (tossing once) until tender and golden brown.  Remove sheet pan from oven and set aside.
  • In a large saute pan, add olive oil, leeks, garlic, thyme and sage and cook on medium-low for about 5 minutes until leeks are tender, stirring frequently to prevent garlic from burning.
  • Deglaze with white wine or brandy and cook for a couple of minutes until alcohol has reduced.
  • Turn heat up to medium and add vegetable stock and cook until stock has reduced by half about 15 minutes.
  • Add cream and cook until lightly thickened about 5 minutes longer.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.  Drain pasta, rinse well under water, and drain well again.
  • Start off by adding 3/4 of the cooked pasta to the pan, along with roasted butternut squash and arugula and toss to heat through.  
  • Depending on how much sauce you have, add the remaining cooked pasta--you may need to add a little more vegetable stock if sauce is too thick.
  • Serve immediately garnished with toasted pine nuts and fried sage leaves and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Cashew Cream:

1/2 cup raw cashews soaked overnight, drained
1 cup filtered water

  • Drain cashews and add to a blender.  Add filtered water and blend on high for about 4 minutes (with ear plugs...:-) until creamy.  Strain cream and set aside.  You'll need 1 cup for this recipe.  Use any remaining cream in your morning coffee.
Fried Sage:

12 small sage leaves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

  • Heat a small saute pan on medium heat, add sage and cook for about 1 minute, turning once until darkened and crispy.
  • Remove from pan and place on a paper towel.
  • Sprinkle with kosher salt.



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