Butternut squash and pasta are a sweet and savory pairing

In recent years, American chefs have become fond of tucking butternut squash puree into ravioli pillows, swirling it into soups and melting it into risotto.

Known in part for his affinity for elevating vegetables on the plate, James Beard award-winning chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico, N.Y., took the sweet yet savory squash obsession one step further when he launched Blue Hill Yogurt (bluehillyogurt.com) in late 2013.

Yes, a butternut squash yogurt sold at Whole Foods.

So it’s hard to imagine that the nutritious winter squash wasn’t available commercially until 1944, according to fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

Fruits and Veggies More Matters is a nonprofit organization partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to educate the public on the importance of adding more fruits and vegetables to the average American’s diet.

The Star’s Pasta With Herbs and Butternut Squash offers a creamy and delicious way to enjoy butternut squash served with whole-grain pasta.

Butternut squash is a good source of fiber, potassium and magnesium, as well as an excellent source of vitamins A and D. It’s naturally sweet, and you can substitute it for any recipe that calls for pumpkin.

Shopping tip: Choose a squash that’s heavy for its size and store it in a cool, dark place. Once cut, refrigerate any unused portions.

You can also find diced butternut squash in many produce sections.

Preparation tip: A winter squash is often difficult to peel. To make it easier, pierce the butternut squash with the tip of a sharp knife. Microwave the squash on high power for 2 minutes. Allow to stand for 3 minutes.

Pasta with Herbs and Butternut Squash

Makes 4 servings

1 medium butternut squash, about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs.

3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

Salt and pepper, to taste

8 oz. whole-grain medium shells or penne

1/2 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups unsalted vegetable stock, divided

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil

2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick coating.

Using a large, heavy knife, cut off the ends of the squash. Peel using a vegetable peeler. Cut squash in half, remove seeds and cut squash into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the squash cubes in a zip-top bag. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Seal and toss to coat evenly. Spread in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until tender and edges are lightly browned, stirring midway through cooking.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water, according to package directions; drain.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes or until onion is just tender. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently for 30 seconds. Add 1 1/4 cups stock and Italian seasoning. Heat until boiling. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes.

Stir together remaining 1/4 cup stock and cornstarch. Stir cornstarch mixture into simmering stock. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly and thickened.

In a large serving bowl, stir together squash, pasta and sauce. Sprinkle with fresh minced herbs and toss to combine.

Per serving: 393 calories (26 percent from fat), 12 g total fat (2 g saturated), no cholesterol, 64 g carbohydrates, 13 g protein, 27 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber.

Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.

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