So, I used to have a go to recipe. One which I made (and was requested) over and over. I brought it to football watching parties, potluck suppers, girlfriend dinners, housewarming parties, new parents, and to grieving families. I made various versions, but my original was always my favorite. Sure, it took more than a few minutes to whip up, but, the end result was cheesy, creamy, pasta-y, and veggie filled....did I already mention cheesy? Because it had a lot of cheese....like a lot.
What was the dish you ask? A baked veggie pasta dish. Always a crowd pleaser. I mean, what's not to love.....cheese, gluten, heavy cream, and oh yeah...some veggies. I mean, until now----none of those things I do well with anymore. What's a gal to do? Get in the kitchen and make it my healing way--gluten free, dairy free, but still creamy and delicious.
What makes it creamy Brooke? How did you get it to hold together? Here's a secret: roasted butternut squash mixed with canned, full fat coconut milk. That combo is just awesome.
I got the idea from a blogger/cookbook author I love, Ella Woodward, aka Deliciously Ella. Her story--a personal illness prompted her to change her diet and in the process of healing, she changed her life, created a business, and became a blogger/restaurateur/author/wholesaler/amongst other things--resonated with my soul because I saw myself in her. I could do this. I could change my life.
When I found her, at the height of the first part of my illness when I was so fatigued I could barely function, she gave me hope I could live a better life. She inspired me to believe I'd not always be this bad off health wise. That I could learn how to heal and create a life which resonated more with my soul and healed my body, rather than just doing something which kinda/sorta/not really/maybe only a little bit nourished me. Does that make sense?
I'm giving you fair warning right now...this dish is best taken in steps. Don't let all the steps turn you away. I know it's not my traditional fast fix, but this is soooo worth it. Here's how I moved through the steps....first things first, turn up the volume to your fave cooking tunes and just enjoy singing and dancing while you're cooking. Believe me, the payoff is so dang worth it.
First, I soaked my sundried tomatoes in boiling water for 30 minutes. While they're soaking, I got to roasting my butternut squash. Stirred them halfway through. Once they're super tender, remove from oven (about 25-35 minutes depending on your oven's heat and size you cubed your squash) and set aside to cool a bit. Leave on your oven because you'll need it to bake it all together.
By this point, my tomatoes were ready to drain. I drained those, added coconut oil to a skillet, and began sautéing my colorful veggies and garlic. Sauté them up, and then turn off heat, set aside.
During the sauté time, I was able to precook my brown rice pasta. I precooked by putting pasta in pot with water, bringing it to a boil for 1-2 minutes, then cutting off the heat and let the pasta sit in the water. Check your pasta though if it needs precooking before it's baked in the oven.
While pasta is sitting, shake up your coconut milk really good...like really good...and then open the can. Pour about 1/2 can into a large bowl and add your roasted squash. Now, you could put in a blender and create a smooth and creamy sauce, but I'm all about thick, hearty, and rustic. Plus, I've got enough dishes to wash by now...I don't want to wash the blender too. Just being honest ;)
Mix squash and coconut milk. Then add in sautéed veggies. Drain pasta and then add pasta to bowl with squash and veggie mixture. Stir to combine. Pour into a baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes until veggies are set and edges are golden. Ahhhh golden...I once heard one of my mentors say that was one of her favorite colors. I can get behind that statement. For sure. Can't you?
To serve, sprinkle some nutritional yeast and either freshly chopped or dried parsley on top of your bowl. Because this is not a plate pasta. No, it's a bowl pasta. And I'm ready to dig in. Enjoy!