This simple pasta, black bean and butternut squash dish is something that I have been making off and on for over 25 years. I’m not sure where I first got the idea, but as it has stood the test of time I thought I might share it. There is little skill involved, just a willingness to chop a few things, roast one or two and toss them together. No sauces, no tricky timings – it is pretty easy. And really rather nice, as things involving pasta tend to be.It is a bit odd that a lot of us food bloggers will crank out new recipes – new to us, new to you – week after week, but sometimes we forget about the dishes and ideas that we fall back on year in and year out. I have shared a number over the almost three years I have been writing food to glow – Spinach Pie, Shepherdess Pie, Fish Tacos and Very Veggie Black Bean Chilli are four well-loved family recipes that immediately spring to mind. But this simple pasta dish somehow slipped through the net. Perhaps it is because we don’t eat a lot of pasta. Perhaps because I don’t spend the time to photograph it before wolfing it down of a weeknight, crammed in between parental taxi duties (sorry about the dull light). However, when the craving for slippery, comforting carbs strikes this is our favourite fail-safe, store cupboard way to eat pasta.
You will see that I have called for plain old tagliatelle, not anything whole grain or with nutrition cred. On this occasion, because this pasta recipe provides plenty of fibre from the beans and squash, we indulge in a little of the white stuff. If you consider white pasta poison, ditch it and replace with the pasta substitute of your choice. You could reinvent this altogether with spaghetti squash, skipping the pasta trope altogether. The marriage of melting soft squash, earthy beans, cheek-tightening lemon and the woody scent of herbs is the main thing. And olive oil – the good stuff ‘cos you’re worth it.
Last year: Love Your Greens Soup
Two years ago: Sage and Walnut Cauliflower Cheese
Miss R’s track of the week: Gorgon City – Ready For Your Love
Feel free to play around with the herbs and spices, and even whether or not you include the cheese or beans. This really is scrummy and just needs partnering with a crisp green salad. It is quick too, especially if you have roasted the squash previously. Sometimes I roast the butternut squash the day before I need it if I have the oven on for something else. Or I get a big squash and use half for this recipe and half for another. Also, if the chillies are fairly mild (I bite the end to check) then I tend to use them fresh rather than roast them.
1 small butternut squash
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 red chillies, deseeded (leave a few seeds if you like the heat), halved lengthways and sliced
2 cloves garlic (optional), chopped
8 ‘nests’ of dried tagliatelle (or 60-75g other dried pasta, like linguine or shells)
150g (1 cup) best-quality feta cheese or vegan Greek-style cheese, crumbled
1 400g (14 oz) tin borlotti beans or black beans, rinsed and drained OR 1 pack smoked tofu, cubed – either choice may be warmed gently in a pan, but I don’t bother
Zest and juice of ½ lemon (you may want to add the rest)
20 gm (.75 oz) pack of basil, shredded OR 8 sage leaves, shredded (sage and squash are perfect partners but sage is assertive)
Handful of pine nuts or pumpkin seeds
Extra virgin olive oil
Flat leaf parsley, chopped and/or rocket leaves
1. First tackle the squash. There are numerous suggested methods for dealing with this thick-skinned relation of the courgette. My preferred way for this dish is to carefully cut the squash into four wedges, scoop out the seeds (set aside for roasting separately), and place on a baking tray. Slick over or spoon a small amount of olive oil onto each wedge, season and bake for about 45 minutes (may need longer) at 180 C. Add the chillies and chopped garlic for the last 10 minutes; pop the pine nuts or pumpkin seeds on a small tray and bake these as well. You may want to test the squash with a skewer before removing from the oven – it offers no resistance if done. When cool enough to handle carefully slide a sharp knife between and along the flesh and the peel. Do this for all the wedges then cut the freed wedges into even, bite-sized chunks. Or, you could of course peel the raw squash, halve, deseed and cube the flesh. Set the squash, seeds and chillies aside.
2. When you are ready to eat, cook the pasta in a large wide pan according to packet directions. Drain the pasta and decant into a wide, shallow serving dish (or just use the pan again). Add in the squash, chillies, beans, sage or basil, cheese and toasted seeds. Drizzle over extra virgin olive oil, season and toss to mix. Garnish with chopped parsley or rocket/arugula.
Nutrition Notes: One cup of butternut squash (about 200 grams) gives us over 350 per cent of our daily Vitamin A requirements – as beta-carotene, 26 per cent of Vitamin C and 23 per cent of dietary fibre. Not shabby. But this low GI vegetable is also a very good source of a host of other essential nutrients, such as B6, manganese, potassium and folate. Some of you may think, well I know it is good for me – all that orange! – but isn’t it starchy? Actually it is 90 per cent carbohydrate, with about half being starch: this kind of freaks some people out. Well, fret not. It appears that all starches are not created equal. A particular starch in nearly all hard winter squashes includes a type of pectin that has notable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties. And one steamed cup is only 76 calories. It is one of the Centre For Science In The Public Interest’s 10 best foods. Click on the link to see the others, as well as the top 10 worst foods too.