Over the past few months, Chaser started calling me by a new nickname: Gimmick. He insists that I always buy stupid stuff in attempt to solve one problem or another, and while he may be right about a few things, most of them are totally NOT gimmicks. They are valuable tools that help the both of us out in one way or another. Like this rolly thing I use for my shin splints and general muscle soreness. Or these head support scarf thingies to help us sleep on planes. Super legit.
But just recently, after years of refusing to jump on the bandwagon, I finally broke down and bought a vegetable spiralizer. Last month, I went and purchased the doughnut pan I’d been eyeing up and was really surprised at how much I actually enjoyed using it. In fact, I was kinda mad at myself for waiting to so long to get one. Baked doughnuts are amazing! That experience was the little push I needed to make me go ahead and buy a spiralizer already. I decided that if I’m curious about a cooking product, I should just get it. I owe it to you, my dear readers, to let you know if something is actually worth owning, or, if it is, in fact, a gimmick.
The verdict? Well… It’s still out. So far, I’ve only used it to make these butternut squash noodles, and perhaps they’re not the best indicator of whether or not this thing can really do the job it promises. Winter squash is notoriously hard to cut, and I’m sure zucchini, cucumbers and the like are far easier to work with. I haven’t tried them yet.
As soon as my spiralizer came in the mail, I couldn’t wait to open the box and get to work. I had just picked tons of butternut squash from my garden, so I peeled one, removed the seeds, cut it into quarters and had at it. It was a little (okay, a lot) hard to work with, and it did not result in anything that even remotely resembled a noodle. It could have maybe passed for the broken bits of spaghetti my mom used to put into chicken soup when we were out of out orzo or ditalini… Plus lots of random chunks and mush. It was a disaster.
I had seen this work so beautifully for other people on the internet, so naturally, I turned to Google for help. I quickly found out that… Oh. You’re not supposed to cut the squash prior to spiralizing. Oops. That makes so much sense. I used the broken bits to make a butternut puree and tried again with a second squash, this time being sure to leave it whole. The results were far from perfect, but a lot better than my first try.
Overall, I think this thing is a bit cheap and clunky and dare I say it… gimmicky. Unlike a doughnut pan, I’m not sure I’d suggest buying a spiralizer unless you’re really, really into making veggie noodles. It’s big, it’s bulky, and at least after my first go around, it doesn’t seem to work all that well. I’m sure there are other models on the market that are perhaps better quality than this one, and I’m sure it works that much better on softer veggies, but for now, I’m just not so sure about it. Have you ever used a spiralizer? What are your thoughts?
Gimmick aside, let’s talk about the recipe. You do not – I repeat! – do not need a spiralizer to make this super awesome pasta dish. You can slice the squash into strips, you can cube it, or you can use the julienne attachment on a mandoline (not a gimmick!) to make spaghetti-like strands.
Sweet, roasted butternut squash tangles up with perfectly al dente noodles, then gets tossed with a healthy dose of nutty brown butter. It all gets topped with a shower of garlicky, rosemary scented almond breadcrumbs for amazing textural contrast. To finish, we plop an ooey gooey hunk of burrata cheese on top and let it melt down into all the nooks and crannies. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.
It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and while this isn’t exactly a Thanksgiving recipe, it’s one you’ll want to make the day before or after Thanksgiving, especially if you’re one of those people who hates leftovers. It’s easy to prepare, and it’s the kind of warm, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that makes this time of year so cozy and wonderful.
Since we’re replacing half of the noodles with squash, it’s a lot better for you, too. That, of course, is a relative statement considering all the butter and cheese. But, we’re nearing the end of autumn and your winter bod is calling. We can revisit the healthy stuff in January.
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Two Years Ago: Grandma’s Apple Pie
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and left whole
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt, to taste, plus plenty more for pasta water
- pepper, to taste
- 1/2 lb thin spaghetti
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup almonds, finely chopped or crushed
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig rosemary, left whole
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1-2 balls of burrata cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Use a spiralizer to make long, thin noodles out of the butternut squash. This is easiest to do if you leave the squash whole (I learned the hard way). If you don't have a spiralizer, you can cut the squash into strips or small chunks.
- Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is just cooked through but not mushy (this will take longer for cubed squash).
- Bring a large pot of water up to a boil. Season liberally with salt, then drop in the pasta and give it a stir.
- While the pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium saute pan and let it cook until it just starts to brown. Add the grated garlic, breadcrumbs, crushed almonds, and chopped rosemary, then stir with a wooden spoon until toasted, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the breadcrumbs to a plate, then wipe out the pan and melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter. When the butter begins to turn brown and smell nutty, lower the heat, add the sprig of rosemary and saute for one minute.
- Drain the pasta when it's al dente (about 8 minutes), and reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Add the pasta directly to the pan and toss it around, then add the butternut squash and a splash of pasta water to loosen it up. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Gently toss the pasta around until the butternut squash is evenly distributed and it has a nice saucy consistency. Add more pasta water as needed.
- Transfer to a serving dish and top with the toasted almond breadcrumbs. Tear the burrata over top and serve immediately.