Runner’s Recipe: Fregola with Pesto and Butternut Squash

I planned my meals well this week, got all the ingredients, and have managed to stick to the plan in spite of . . . everything. Sounds awesome, right? Except that this is the kind of week it has been: Sunday’s meal was very tasty, but we had a lot of leftovers. Monday’s meal was also tasty, but we had a lot of leftovers. On Tuesday, I made cake. Cauliflower cake. Squish had requested cake for dinner and I obliged. But he didn’t specify that he wanted it covered in blue frosting, so he was somewhat disappointed by what was on the plate in front of him. Manchild wasn’t feeling well and didn’t eat any of it. Micah didn’t get home until 1:30am. I ate my piece and half of Squish’s. The rest is sitting in our refrigerator waiting for its turn in the leftover line. Last night I made the recipe I will share with you today, which, despite being halved, still produced some leftovers. (Do you see my problem?) And the next two nights we are getting baby-sitters, which means grilled cheese sandwiches and the like while the leftovers languish for yet another couple of days.

To be fair, we have finished the leftovers from Sunday, and most of what was left from Monday. But as the Snapware stacks up in the fridge, I’m feeling like the success of planning and preparing so well is being morphed into failure by the fact that we can’t keep up with it. Maybe I should listen to Manchild a little better when he says things like, “Mom, if you make something for dinner and you put pepper in it, then maybe we should go to a restaurant because I don’t like pepper.”

But that isn’t the point. The point is that I make good food, whether anybody else agrees or not. And this dish is no exception. It was inspired by the food our friends gave us when they moved across the country, and is kind of fancy. Roasted butternut, fregola pasta (think a large, irregularly shaped couscous), a pesto made from cilantro, parsley, and spices, all topped with a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten and lighten the whole thing up. It’s like fall is remembering summer. Which is perfect because that is how the world has felt this past week. Like fall remembering summer.

Fregola with Pesto and Roasted Butternut Squash adapted from Food52

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-1 1/2 inch chunks

1 pound fregola sarda (Couscous)

2 tablespoons cumin seeds (I used a couple of teaspoons of ground cumin because I didn’t have seeds)

2 medium cloves garlic, skin left on

1 bunch fresh cilantro (or about 3 cups)

1/2 bunch fresh parsley (or about 1 cup)

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 lemons

1 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt to taste

Heat the oven to 475. Place the chopped butternut squash on a rimmed pan, and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and some sea salt. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until it is soft and starting to brown in places. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fregola and boil 10-11 minutes, until al dente. Drain and let cool slightly.

Toast the cumin seeds (or ground cumin) and the garlic cloves in skillet over medium heat until cumin is fragrant. Leave the garlic on until is is soft and the garlic skin starts browning. Mash the garlic a little bit and put it, the toasted cumin, the cilantro, parsley, paprika, and zest of one lemon in a food processor or blender. Blend or process, adding 1/4 cup olive oil through the feed tube until it is smooth-ish.

Toss the pesto, pasta, juice of two lemons, pinenuts (if using), and butternut squash in a large bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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  1. I hear you on the leftovers issue. I planned the week with one leftovers night, but I think tonight is going to be leftovers again, because there is just sooo much food in the fridge! Carlos always takes leftovers for lunch, but he’s a day behind on the lineup because he got treated to lunch this week. And he will be working tomorrow night so I may just do another scavenging of the fridge for dinner.


    lizzie Reply:

    Oh my goodness. It seems like whenever I plan a leftovers night, we end up not having any, and whenever I don’t, we end up needing two of them. I assume this is just how life is going to be forever, no matter how hard I try to anticipate what is going to happen. I’m glad it isn’t just me.


  2. This is why I love my freezer. If the outlook for leftovers is looking grim, I just pop them in the freezer and they keep for weeks. (Though I usually just plan them into my menu 1-2 weeks after I make them). Often, I’ll double a recipe I really love (or that freezes especially well) just so I can have it on hand in the freezer. It’s also handy for those weeks when things don’t go just right and dinner is looking like it’s going to be oatmeal again.

    And let me just tell you we have a tiny freezer.


    lizzie Reply:

    Ah, yes, the freezer! I do use it for leftovers occasionally, but I am not really good at using them until, ahem, 2-3 months later. Which is usually okay. Usually.

    I’ll have to practice with that more. 🙂


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