Pasta with Pesto and Squash

It’s finally time for me to start explaining what on earth I’ve done and/or plan to do with all that food I squirreled away in the basement this summer. The immediate project is to make room in our freezer for some incoming fish and, hopefully (please, Jilly, please?), venison. First order of business? Using up some of the pesto. Pesto freezes beautifully in jelly jars, but jars are freezer hogs. And, um, I need some of those jars for holiday gifts.

So, what to do with it? Put it on pasta, obviously. But it also makes an excellent sandwich spread (particularly with cheese and roasted peppers, also from the freezer), a nice garnish for soup, and a reliable companion for cheese. Pretty much anything you use fresh pesto for, you can use frozen pesto for. Just be sure to check your label to see whether you need to add cheese and nuts.

One last thing, and then on to one of my favorite ways to eat it: don’t be alarmed if the top of the jar has a thin layer or black, or at least darkened, basil. This is a normal effect of oxidation. Depending on how much oil you used, it might not happen at first, but it will if you only use, say, half the jar. It doesn’t affect the taste too much, but if it bothers you, just scrape it off.

On to business!

Pasta with Pesto and Squash

4 oz. frozen pesto, thawed
1 medium butternut squash
1 T. olive oil
3/4 lb. penne (I like wheat, but whatever floats your boat)
Pecorino Romano or other hard cheese for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Trim and peel the squash; cut into 3/4″ cubes. Toss the cubes with the oil and a bit of salt and roast for about 25 minutes. You want them chewable and maybe just a touch carmelized, but not burnt. (Throw in some garlic if you want).

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When the squash has about 10 minutes to go, start the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/4 c. of pasta water, and return both to the pot.

3. Toss the pasta, the pasta water, the pesto, and the squash. Add more salt and oil if necessary. Serve and top with grated cheese.

Notes: This assumes that you froze your pasta con cheese and nuts. If not, you need to add them. To see this as an opportunity, rather than an annoyance, try varying the cheese. This is particularly nice with goat cheese.

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