I have been stuck in a dinner rut recently.
It’s been bad.
Like, frozen pizza bad. (Which is soooo not my style.)
It didn’t help that the weather in Kansas went from warm pleasant spring to WINTER. Snow, ice, the whole tamale. Again. It was so hard to get motivated to cook new recipes when all I wanted was familiar comfort.
Then, when a warm, rainy spring day finally returned, I still reached for a familiar favorite: Summer Vegetable Ravioli Salad. I wanted to enjoy the lighter flavors that come with warmer weather but wasn’t willing to stretch far from my comfy regime.
I had just finished the recipe, but a TORNADO WARNING popped up unexpectedly.
If you’re not familiar, a tornado warning means go to your basement now because there’s literally a tornado swirling around in the sky and heading your direction. In this situation, if we have time, I head to my parent’s basement, about a mile away, because our current house is built on a slab foundation.
(If we don’t have time, two different neighbors with basements in our cul-de-sac have offered to shelter us. Or, we could get into an interior closet. We have lots of options.)
Anyway, to recap, I had just finished cooking a favorite recipe on a rainy spring day when I got word that a tornado had been spotted one town away and was heading my direction.
I grabbed the diaper bag, threw on shoes, and headed to the car while my husband strapped our son into his car seat. But then I had an idea. Why not bring dinner? I had made more than enough to share, and it was just sitting there completely ready in the pot getting cold.
So I hopped back inside toward the kitchen, but my feet were now wet. As soon as I touched the kitchen tile, whoop!
Now, I’m lying on the floor. My first thought: oooouuuccch, I think I sprained my ankle. My second thought: thank God nobody saw me do that. My third thought: I am so glad I wasn’t holding dinner while I fell, because I’m still looking forward to eating that!
I grab dinner and hobble out the door as fast as I could (because remember, TORNADO!).
But, yeah, I totally sprained my ankle. A couple of days of ice followed by a doctor’s appointment, x-rays and the following instructions: rest, wear this little brace, and “no sports.”
So, aside from one memorable meal, the dinner rut continued.
THIS BOOK SAVED ME FROM MY DINNER RUT! (Affiliate link)
I had requested it at my local library weeks ago, and while I was laid up with hurt ankle and hurt pride. It was so inspiring! As soon as I was feeling up to going on a grocery run, I wrote out a meal plan, including three new-to-us recipes, and went shopping!
And this recipe, Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Smoked Paprika, is an instant hit with my family. It’s going into my permanent rotation!
It reminded me of another favorite recipe of mine: Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta from CookingLight. But, as much as I LOVE that recipe, I never have enough time to make it on a week night. Believe me, I’ve tried!
- 3 c chopped butternut squash (use frozen to save time!)
- 1/2 onion, chopped (again, use frozen to save time, if you want!)
- 2 tsp dried thyme (or leaves from 4 or 5 fresh thyme springs)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 lb any pasta
- 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- fresh ricotta for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- in a baking dish lined with foil, toss together squash, onions, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper, and paprika. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and browning around the edges.
- While the squash is in the oven, prepare the pasta per package directions, reserving 1/4 c of pasta water before draining.
- Return the drained pasta to the pot and toss with the squash.
- Add the Parmesan with half of the reserved pasta water to thin and evenly distribute the cheese. (Note: I have to admit, I was a doubter on this step. A sauce made with starchy water and cheese? Noooope. BUT, I stuck with it, and it turns out just fine in the end!!)
- Serve immediately, topped with ricotta and more Parmesan.