Butternut Squash Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs
A cozy, fall-inspired pasta loaded with roasted butternut squash. Crispy toasted breadcrumbs take this satisfying and nutritious pasta completely over the top! Vegan & Gluten Free.
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This week was a cozy one. The days are getting shorter and it might be just me, but I swear people are starting to move a bit slower too. In usual Vancouver fashion, the air is developing a damp chill - which lucky for us, means the cold is starting to creep in through our windows. Funny enough, I don't actually mind it. It's the perfect excuse to get into full-on homebody mode. The fireplace is on, cozy blankets and pillows litter the couch, and there's always a hot pot of tea sitting on the counter. The kittens love it. Once the fireplace is on, they both turn into these sleepy, unresponsive blobs of fur. And, although there's barely room on the couch for all of us, the kittens always seem to nestle their way in for their hundredth nap of the day. If I'm lucky, I end up with one kitten on my lap and the other snoozing against my leg.
Since I've been so comfy and bundled up at home, we're a bit overdue in the groceries department. I've been meaning to replenish our fridge over the past few days, I really have, but I keep finding excuses to not leave the house. So, when it came to developing this week's recipe, I had two choices. I could either go to the local market to stock up for the rest of the week. Or, I could just wing it with what we had at home - which wasn't much. I told Anguel I was going with the latter, because I like to live life on the edge. Considering I said this while being "one with the couch", wearing my most awful but favorite sweatpants, I knew he wasn't buying it. In any case, we needed to eat dinner. And since Anguel had been traveling for work this week, I wanted it to be really good.
So here's a recipe that can be made with an almost empty fridge. And let me tell you, the end result was awesome! This pasta dish is the perfect balance of indulgence and nourishment. I know it's going to become a part of our regular rotation - even when our fridge is full.
When it's cold outside, there's nothing quite like curling up with a warm bowl of pasta for dinner. Pasta strikes a chord with most people. It's familiar, craveable and intensely satisfying. But since we all know how easy it is to go overboard with pasta, I decided to bring in some healthier touches.
I started off by building a vegan recipe that could easily be made gluten-free. The sauce is a simple but delicious one: good quality olive oil gently infused with heaps of garlicky goodness and spices. The roasted butternut squash provides additional fiber and nutrients. The stunning color and texture is a great addition to this dish - it could have been one of my favorite things on the plate. And since I wanted this pasta dish to stand alone as a main dinner or lunch, I included chickpeas for a vegetarian source of protein. The chickpeas are sauteed to get infused with the flavors of the sauce, and end up providing an almost creamy bite to a dairy-less dish. Spinach is a quick and easy way to incorporate greens, without overwhelming the flavor - and it's something I always have on hand.
But now to the subtle star of this dish: toasted breadcrumbs! At this point, if you're worried that my week of hibernation has made me crazy (breadcrumbs in a pasta dish?!) - I'm serious, this pairing is truly amazing. I remember first reading about toasted breadcrumb pasta in the library of all places. Anguel was picking up a book and I was browsing through the stack of old magazines. I couldn't even tell you which one, because the cover had fallen off, but breadcrumbs always intrigue me. I'd just never thought to put them on pasta.
And these flavored breadcrumbs are dead easy to make. Just add your favorite breadcrumbs to a skillet with a small bit of oil and spices. Stir continuously for about 3-5 minutes until they've developed a deep golden brown color. And that's it! Seriously, so easy. And despite being so simple, toasted breadcrumbs really elevate the dish. Toasted breadcrumbs are the perfect savory finish for vegan pasta - they can be generously sprinkled over the plate like one would do with Parmesan cheese. It's magic pasta dust. I'm obsessed. I already made extras and now I'm finding reasons to sprinkle it on almost everything.
I don't know about you, but if I find it very easy to eat A LOT of pasta. Have you seen what an actual portion size of pasta looks like? It's a small fraction of what we're used to eating at a restaurant. In testing this recipe, we found that because of all the extras added to the pasta, you actually need less noodles to fill you up. The benefit of swapping out some of the pasta noodles for squash and chickpeas is that you're boosting your fiber and protein intake, while still being entirely satisfied with your heaping plate. Sounds like a win-win to me!
So next time you're looking for a cozy pasta recipe, you should definitely give this one a try. It's unique, nourishing and every bit as satisfying. The ingredients are ones that you could easily have on hand, and the simplicity of the dish makes it an easy weekday (or weeknight) meal.