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Cavatappi and Chestnuts with Creamy Kabocha Sauce and Cranberries

Cavatappi and Chestnuts with Creamy Kabocha Sauce and Cranberries

There have been several requests that I post the recipe for my pasta with kabocha squash sauce — so here it is!  The first time I made it, there was no recipe because I put it together quite spontaneously using leftover roasted kabocha squash.  This particular type of squash is so deliciously flavorful that it barely needs any other seasonings to boost its flavor. So, unlike your typical pumpkin sauces or those made with a less flavorful squash, there aren’t a ton of ingredients in this sauce — the squash does most of the heavy lifting!

Look for kabocha squash (aka Hokaido pumpkin) at Asian markets or well-stocked supermarkets. The superior flavor of the kabocha squash makes a substitution difficult, but if you can’t find one, then use a buttercup or butternut squash instead.

To dress this up for Thanksgiving, I’ve added cooked peeled chestnuts and sweetened dried cranberries, resulting in a very festive and totally delicious dish.

Some variations:

  • If you can’t find cooked peeled chestnuts (I buy them at Asian markets where they are available in vacuum sealed bags for under $2.00), you can roast your own chestnuts or simply substitute lightly toasted walnut or pecan pieces.
  • To make this a “centerpiece” dish, transfer it to a large serving bowl and top with a sprinkling of  lightly toasted panko crumbs and a little minced parsley.
  • You can substitute any bite-sized pasta you like, but I prefer the fun shape and chewy texture of cavatappi (and it holds the sauce well).

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Cavatappi and Chestnuts with Creamy Kabocha Sauce and Cranberries

1 small kabocha squash, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme or sage
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
12 ounces cavatappi or other bite-sized pasta
2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked peeled chestnuts
1/4 to 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the two squash halves, cut-side down in a lightly oiled baking dish. Pour about 1/2 cup of water into the pan and cover tightly with foil. Bake until the squash is tender, about 45 minutes. Uncover and set aside to cool.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the thyme and paprika, if using, then remove from the heat.
Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until it is just tender. Drain and return to the pot.
While the pasta is cooking, scoop about 2 cups of the cooked squash out of its shell and transfer it to a food processor or high-speed blender. Add the reserved onion mixture and 1 cup of the almond milk and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, scraping down the sides of the processor, then process again until smooth and creamy, adding as much of the remaining almond milk as needed to make a smooth, creamy sauce.
Add the sauce mixture, along with the chestnuts and cranberries to the drained cooked pasta and toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Heat over low heat for a few minutes, if necessary. Serve hot.

Serves 4

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • omlet November 24, 2014, 6:01 pm

    I bet this is so good! These flavors are perfection!

    • Robin December 3, 2014, 2:46 pm

      It’s REALLY good — the flavors combine so well!

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