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The Macaroni Marathon takes a quick step today with one of the easiest and healthy pasta dishes I know.  I made this last night and served it to a guest.  I was able to prep it before my company arrived and all I had to do when we were through with cocktails was to cook the pasta.

I had bought a large bag of asparagus at Costco and knew when I purchased it that one of the dishes I would make would be this favorite of mine.

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 TBS EV olive oil

Fresh asparagus  ( 1 bunch) cut into 2″ pieces

15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

3/4 cup of chicken or vegetable broth

3 TBS pine nuts (optional)

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 lb linguine or penne

Grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese

Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the olive oil in large braising pan over Medium heat.  Add garlic and asparagus to pan and lightly sauté.  Add cannellini beans  and pine nuts (if using) and cook another 4-5 minutes.  Add broth and simmer for a few minutes.  Add pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile in large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta per directions to al dente. 

Add drained pasta to pan with asparagus and beans, add pasta water as needed and toss pasta to coat with a think sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.

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You know it’s winter in our home when the chief cook (me) turns to all forms of comfort food. We have hearty soups and stews and when we have pasta it’s often with vegetables that are plentiful in the grocery store.  I’m talking root vegetables, onions, carrots, pumpkin and beans.  And usually these vegetables leave a smaller carbon footprint!

Nigella Lawson's Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese

Nigella Lawson’s Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese

INGREDIENTS:

1 large butternut squash (2 3/4lb – 3 1/4lb or 1 3/4 lb of ready-cubed  (6 cups)

1 large onion finely chopped

2 TBS olive oil

3/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1 TBS unsalted butter

3 TBS Marsala

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup pine nuts

1 lb of pappardelle or rigatoni

6 fresh sage leaves

5 oz of soft blue cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the butternut squash into 1″ cubes.  Cook onion in olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan that can accomodate the pasta later – I would use my braising pan.  When the onion turns golden, add the paprika.

Stir butter and squash into the onion mixture.  Add Marsala and water.  Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat.  Simmer about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender but holds its shape.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boiling, add a hefty pinch of salt.  Cook according to package directions.  Toast the pine nuts in a hot dry frying pan on the stove top until dark gold.  Pour them into a bowl or onto a plate to cool. 

Lightly season season squash mixture to taste with salt ( the blue cheese will add additonal saltiness).  Remove from heat.

Finely chop the sage; Sprinkle over the squash, reserving some for serving.

Reserve 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water; drain pasta and add to the squash mixture.  Gently stir to combine.  If sauce is too dry or mixture won’t come together, add some of the reserved pasta water;  the starch encourages the sauce to emulsify and cling to the pasta.  Stir in most of the pine nut and the  blue cheese.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Sprinkle  with the remaining sage, pine nuts and cheese.

Recipe from  Kitchen by Nigella Lawson,  featured Better Homes And Gardens, October 2010

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