Penne with Butternut Squash, Kale, and Pecorino | Recipe Report Card

8 Jan

Tonight’s dinner did not go as smoothly as last night’s. Trying to get the Bug home after the playground is always a challenge (“MORE PAYGROUN!” And then when I carry her away: “MY WALK!”), but when it’s a playgroup playground day and she’s getting hangry (I swear, she’s going through a growth spurt now in addition to getting her two-year molars), it is no fun. Pair that mad dash home with a fussy toddler who doesn’t want to hang out with Daddy, leaving him little choice but to stand directly behind me the entire time I am cooking, and it does not create an ideal cooking situation. Also, I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE WATCH ME COOK! OMG I HATE IT SO MUCH! So, yeah, not ideal. I did remember to take a phone photo, though, so there’s that.

Penne with butternut squash, kale, and pecorino

Penne with Butternut Squash, Kale, and Pecorino, Tante Marie’s Cooking School

  • Meal: dinner, 1/8/15
  • Kid tried?: Kind of
  • Keeper?: Yes, with modifications
  • Cook’s grade: B. So, when I started this whole project, Dave said, “You used to cook all the time. Why don’t you just start making the recipes you used to make?” To which I responded, “I have no memory of what I used to make.” He, helpfully, reminded me that I took a lot of photos of food I made. (Many are probably on this blog somewhere.) This was one of those old standbys. My coworker Jen recommended it to me and it became a staple, until I decided that the prep was too arduous. Peeling and cutting a butternut squash into 1/4″ dice? AGONY! But I decided to break down the prep, cutting the squash last night and then during the Bug’s nap today, and it was much easier. Though, still only good for a week when you have time to prep a meal. The actual cooking is dead simple: one pot. See more notes below.
  • Kid’s grade: B. It involved pasta and cheese, so she liked it, and I think she would have liked the squash (which she normally does like), but she was fussy toddler tonight.

Cooking tips for busy parents:

  • Follow Jenny Rosenstrach’s advice from Dinner: The Playbook and prep as much as you can beforehand
    • Cut up the squash and clean and rip (I didn’t chop) the kale after you go food shopping
    • Either grate the cheese when you do the other prep or while you’re cooking the squash
    • Set out the nonperishable items on the counter the morning before you cook
    • Put a pot of salted water on the stove the morning before you cook
    • Do all that, and the cooking is easy peasy.
  • Minimizing clean-up has to do primarily with pot management.
    • Use one colander.
    • Drain the squash, then put it back in the bowl you had the raw squash in.
    • Drain the kale, then put it in the bowl with the squash. (If you are feeling adventurous, wash the salad spinner or whatever else was holding the kale while you cook the pasta.)
    • Drain the pasta and leave it in the colander.
    • Eyeball the olive oil, butter, garlic, and stock so you don’t have to clean measuring spoons/cups.
  • Dave’s beef with this dish is that it’s not flavorful enough. I like cleaner flavored food than he does, but I can see his point. Here’s what I am going to try next time:
    • More veggies, less pasta. I didn’t notice until after I cooked the whole bag of pasta that you’re only supposed to use 8 oz. Oops.
    • Double the garlic.
    • Use homemade chicken stock, if available. We use boxed, and the flavor is often…subtle. You could also put more stock in and boil it down longer, but this adds to the cooking time.
    • Use more cheese than recommended on the warm pasta.
    • Be generous with the salt and pepper.
    • Extra credit: cook the squash in the chicken stock. This will double the number of pots, but also reduce the cooking time since I could start the kale and squash at the same time.

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