Is it already that time of year again? I love the autumn with the leaves changing colors, the sweaters coming out, the crisp mornings, sipping on warm apple cider. Ahh, it’s a lovely time of year! (even though it’s still pretty hot here!)
Of course, it wouldn’t be fall without the many warm soups and breads, casseroles and flavors like cinnamon and seasonal ingredients like squash and pumpkin.
To celebrate the beginning of fall, I’m sharing one of my favorite fall healthy comfort foods!
What I love about this dish is the mix of the soft, gooey texture of the butternut squash and the salty, crunchy texture of the bacon!
Butternut squash is a great fall/winter ingredient and even healthier than its summer cousins (like zucchini).
Butternut squash is heart-friendly since it’s rich in dietary fiber (have you felt how dense it is?!) and that rich orange color indicates that it’s full of carotenoids which protect against heart disease.
Not only is this squash great for your heart, but your breasts too! The beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A which is a deterrent of breast cancer as well as age-related macular degeneration.
With just 1 cup of butternut squash you already have almost half of your daily recommended Vitamin C! In short: butternut squash does great things for your body so enjoy it this season!
How to Pick out the Best Butternut Squash: Look for one that is heavy for its size and has a matte finish. If it’s shiny, then it was picked too early and it won’t be sweet enough.
Roasted Butternut Squash + Bacon Pasta with Chicken and Spinach
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided.
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pep
- 3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash
- Cooking spray
- 6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw)
- 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 1 pound cooked, shredded chicken breast
- 2-3 cups roughly chopped baby spinach
- 8 ounces uncooked mini penne (gluten free or whole grain)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour (gluten free or all purpose)
- 2 cups 2% reduced fat milk (cows milk, coconut milk, almond milk, etc.)
- ¾ cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese (optional)
- 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450°.
Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Combine squash mixture, bacon, and shallots; set aside.
Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.
Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Stir in shredded chicken and chopped spinach. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese if using.
Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.