A Final Winter Winesday

Well hello there. Happy Winesday. It appears that it’s finally spring in Connecticut, so yay! The menu below is for a final winter Winesday that had a nice, hearty selection, but now that the weather is (finally) getting warmer, I can only assume we’ll be indulging in slightly lighter fare…maybe.

The Wine

  • Erath Quail Run Pinot Blanc. This 2010 Oregon wine is a combination of bright, fruity flavors like cantaloupe, pineapple, and citrus with subtle spicy vanilla notes. The lingering finish has more of an apricot and toasted almond taste. The grapes are fermented in new French oak, but there is very little oak taste to the wine. It’s a unique white wine that pairs well with bold, spicy foods or creamy pastas.

The Entrée

  • Butternut squash stuffed shells. It may sound odd to combine squash with pasta that’s traditionally stuffed with cheeses and tomato sauce, but once you alter the main ingredients, the result is heavenly. Butternut squash has a strangely comforting quality to it, and when it’s served inside pasta with a creamy bechamel sauce, “comforting” doesn’t begin to describe its effect. Below is the recipe for a less-than-traditional delight, but be warned: you’ll definitely go back for seconds…and thirds.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 4 servings

For the Shells

  • 20 jumbo shells
  • 2 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 10 oz bag of fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 10-15 fresh sage leaves, or 1 tsp dried sage

For the Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper to taste

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the butternut squash in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet, and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Roast for 20 minutes, remove from oven, and flip the pieces of squash. Place back in the oven, and roast another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and use a food processor or large spoon to mash the pieces.
  2. Cook the shells according to package directions. Drain, and set aside. Meanwhile, saute the spinach in a little olive oil, and set aside.
  3. Saute the garlic and shallots in a large separate pan with two tablespoons of unsalted butter. Continue to whisk until small bits of brown appear in the butter, and then add the pureed butternut squash, cream cheese, and a tablespoon of parmesan cheese to the pan. Remove from heat, and mix in the spinach.
  4. Spray an 8″ x 8″ pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each shell with 1-2 tablespoons of the butternut squash mixture, and line the pan with the filled shells.
  5. Make the bechamel sauce by heating two tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it begins to sizzle, whisk in flour, and cook until the mixture is golden brown with a slightly nutty aroma. Whisk continuously, and add the milk and parmesan cheese. Let the mixture come to a simmer, and once it begins to thicken, stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper. It should be similar in texture to alfredo sauce when you remove it from the heat.
  6. Pour the mixture over the stuffed shells, and top with additional parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and sage. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is.

The Dessert

  • Milk chocolate strawberry cream cheese cake with chocolate ganache frosting. Wow, that’s a mouth full, literally.  I don’t normally make cakes for Winesday because they take so much time and I’m often trying to get the Winesday dessert done on Tuesday night, but I was seriously craving chocolate cake for this. It was a pretty sweet ending to the final Winesday of winter to have warm, comforting pasta followed by layers of rich, creamy chocolate. If only the approaching swimsuit season could be so sweet…

Comments

  1. That meal was delicious!

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