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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Autumn Pasta Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Let me just start this post out by saying how excited I am that tomorrow is Thanksgiving!  I absolutely love Thanksgiving, or as K likes to call it "Bird Day." Every year K tells me stories about how much his Dad loved cooking for the holidays.  He says he would get in the kitchen, crank up some Louis Prima, and dance away while he cooked.  Plus he was famous for his grilled turkey, which we are definitely going to have to try to recreate someday.  K and I spend Thanksgiving day with my side of the family and then we cook dinner at our house for his side of the family the next day.  We always carry on the tradition of putting on some of his Dad's favorite music while we cook, especially while we make his awesome stuffed mushroom recipe.  I love spending this time in the kitchen with K, prepping all of the delicious food and just hanging out together without the distractions of normal daily life.

I spent a few hours in the kitchen today making dutch apple pie, chocolate cream pie, and honey yeast rolls for my mom's house tomorrow, plus cranberry sauce for Friday.  A lot of people find holiday cooking to be time consuming and stressful but it is actually very relaxing for me.  I just focus on what I am doing and let my stresses melt away.  Cooking, specifically baking, has always been a comfort for me and I am very thankful for that. 

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, that you enjoy some amazing, overly indulgent food, and that you have a few minutes to reflect on all of the things you are thankful for in your life.  We have so much to give thanks for this year, especially our growing family!

After you have had your fill of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and then leftovers for days you will probably be in the mood for something lighter and different.  This pasta salad has lots of incredible warm fall flavors and is a nice cold salad to enjoy as a meal or side dish.  The whole wheat noodles are nutty and flavorful which is great compliment to the sweet roasted butternut squash and salty cheesy Parmesan.  The green beans stay nice and crisp from their short blanch while the pasta cooks.  Combining all of these great components with the basil based vinaigrette is the perfect autumn salad. 

Autumn Pasta Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Pasta Salad
1 box whole wheat penne or other short cut pasta
1 cup fresh green beans
2 cups cubed butternut squash
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Basil Vinaigrette, recipe below

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Peel and cube a butternut squash into small bite sized pieces and place on a greased baking tray.  Toss the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until tender and slightly golden brown on the edges.  Let the squash cool to room temperature.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions.  Snap or cut the green beans into bite sized pieces and add to the boiling pasta for the last 4 minutes of cooking time.  Drain the pasta and green beans and allow to cool.

To assemble the pasta salad, combine the pasta, green beans, butternut squash, and chopped nuts in a large bowl.  Toss everything with about 2/3 of the basil vinaigrette recipe.  Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese and be sure to check the salad for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper, if needed.  Refrigerate the pasta salad for at least an hour before serving.  If the pasta has absorbed all of the dressing and become dry, toss with the remaining reserved vinaigrette right before serving.

*Note* I found a similar recipe to this on a google search a few months ago and used it for inspiration.  I have not been able to relocate the recipe, so please leave me a comment if you can direct me to the original blog so that I can give proper credit.

Basil Vinaigrette

1/3 cup fresh basil
1 clove garlic  
1 tsp dijon mustard 
1/3 cup white wine vinegar  
3 tbsp water 
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp white sugar  
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup olive oil 
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil

Add the fresh basil to a food processor and pulse a few times to begin chopping up the leaves. Add all of the ingredients except for the oils and blend for about 30 seconds until well combined and the basil and garlic have been pureed.  With the food processor running on low speed, drizzle the oils in through the top opening and blend until the vinaigrette has emulsified. Pour into a bowl or glass measuring cup and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Inspired by Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch

Enjoy!