You can thank my aunt for inspiring this dish. After she sampled my Butternut Squash Lasagna, which doesn’t use any tomatoes, she said that it could also be great with a marinara sauce. I crinkled my nose at her suggestion. Tomatoes with butternut squash? I didn’t like the idea of that flavor combination. “Why not?” My aunt said. And that made me wonder. Why not?
So I started thinking about how I would combine the two together and my busy mind quickly latched onto the idea of a marinara. Something roasted, thick and sweet that blanketed a dish in heavenly goodness. In my first attempts, I tried to keep the marinara fairly traditional by roasting the squash and tomatoes then folding them into a mixture of sauteed onion, garlic and herbs. It just had too much going on, though, and the texture wasn’t right.
So I ended up simplifying the marinara, no stovetop cooking required. I roasted the squash and cherry tomatoes in a bath of olive oil, rosemary and a pinch of coarse sea salt. I chose to use rosemary in this dish because the sharp, woody, aromatic flavor really brings the earthy butternut squash and sweet cherry tomatoes together. I like to do a slow roast on the vegetables, with a bay leaf for added flavor, to bring out all of the sweet sugars.
Once roasted, I use a fork to smash the squash and tomatoes and blend them together. It makes for a thicker, chunkier texture than if I pureed it, and I have less dirty dishes to contend with. I then add in some dry red wine, a bit of tomato paste to deepen the tomato flavor, a pinch of crushed red pepper to offset the sweetness of the squash and tomatoes, and some garlic. Admittedly, I will often roast the garlic with the vegetables for a slightly different flavor.
The result is a marinara that is delicious and versatile. I like to layer it over whole wheat penne pasta because the tubular penne fills up with the delicious marinara. However, it would also be delicious used as the marinara in a traditional lasagna. Lesson learned, Aunt Paula. Thank you for continuing to inspire me!
- Serves: 4
- Serving size: 1 serving
- Calories: 334.8
- Fat: 9.8
- Saturated fat: 1.9
- Polyunsaturated fat: 0.9
- Carbohydrates: 57.8
- Sugar: 2.1
- Sodium: 237.8
- Fiber: 10.1
- Protein: 9.7
- Cholesterol: 3.6
- 2 cups peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash (about 1″ pieces)
- 2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- ¼ tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ tsp red chili pepper flakes (aka crushed red pepper)
- 8 oz. dry whole wheat penne pasta, cooked according to package directions, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a covered baking dish, toss the squash and tomatoes with the oil, rosemary, and half of the salt.
- Add the bay leaf, cover the dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 15 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and use a fork to smash the squash and tomatoes.
- Stir in the red wine, garlic, tomato paste, red chili pepper flakes, and remaining salt.
- Serve over the cooked pasta. Top each serving with 1 tbsp of the parmesan cheese.