Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, and Arugula Pasta Salad with Date Vinaigrette

Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, and Arugula Pasta Salad with Date Vinaigrette
My name is Kelsey and I have a problem called Salad. I realize this doesn’t seem like the most serious of afflictions, but there’s this part of me that worries about the implications. See, it all started back in June, when I made some Chipotle Turkey Taco Salad. Before I knew it, I was slicing up peaches for Peach Caprese, which was a brief segue toward that time I made that one really, really green salad. And then, all of a sudden, I was mixing pink lady apple slices, red onion, and carrots together for Arugula with Roasted (Fruit and) Vegetables. It appears I have reached the point where I am just not capable of stopping, and I fear that this is some slippery slope, rabbit hole equivalent in which I am Alice, and Seven Layers of Stuff is but a tumble away. There’s a small part of me that wonders if HIMYM’s Minnesotan “Salad” of gummy bears, funyuns, mayo, and potato chips might start sounding tasty. You know, for a while there I thought my character was Robin, but maybe I really was Lily Pad all along.

Here’s the part that concerns me: I added pasta this time. Look through my arsenal of recipes and you will find that this is a rarity. As in, it doesn’t happen. As in, people make pasta salads and I politely inquire about the recipe because clearly I learned to speak more Minnesota Nice in my three years in Minneapolis than I had been pretending. But not once have I ever had a bite of pasta salad that I have enjoyed.

UGH, okay. Okay! That’s a total lie. That used to be true. Until, as a newcomer to the Twin Cities three years ago, I went to Cafe Latte in Saint Paul, I previously thought that pasta in any type of salad was an abomination. But, as with most places that boast chocolate layer cakes coated in caramel and pecans, Cafe Latte quickly charmed me with its cafeteria-style trays topped with plates of food that had tantalized me down the line toward the register. In case it isn’t clear: I am well aware that I picked out every single item that I consumed. There was no forcing my hand. I grabbed a tray and I told the fellas on the other side of the counter what I wanted to eat, and they ladled it out for me. I would seat myself with my company and a plate of some type of cold vegetable dish featuring noodles and dressing that could easily classify as Pasta Salad, and that, right there, is how it happened. Repeatedly. It’s also probably the reason I started making pasta salads, too. Thanks, Minnesota. You somehow wiggled your way into me and I can’t quite figure out how to purge you just yet.

So instead, I brought your essence with me back to Florida. Sugary dates mingle with the bite of balsamic to coat trottole pasta. Add roasted butternut squash and caramelized red onions to the mix. Once cool, we stir in the salad component: peppery arugula to balance out the sweetness and the starch. Telling me not to continue is futile. We both know you don’t mean it.

One Year: Black Bean Salsa
Two Years: Pumpkin Spice French Toast

Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, and Arugula Pasta Salad with Date Vinaigrette
Serves 5-6

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and deseeded, sliced into 1/2″-thick cubes
1/2 red onion, sliced into 1/2″-thick petals
fresh thyme leaves stripped from 3 sprigs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
12 oz trottole noodles, or other spiraled noodle variety
one recipe for date vinaigrette (recipe below)
2 cups arugula

Date Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp pure maple syrup
3 dates, pitted and finely chopped
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook trottole to al dente according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a baking sheet, combine squash, onion, thyme, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, redistributing every 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare date vinaigrette: whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, chopped dates, salt, and pepper, to taste. Drain cooked pasta and immediately toss to coat with vinaigrette. Add squash and onions, stirring to combine. Let cool to room temperature. Chill for about 30 minutes, or until ready to serve. When serving, toss with arugula. Season to taste with salt and pepper, as desired.



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