I'd have to call myself a bit of a noodle connoisseur, having grown up with such a variety of them in both Korean and American cooking.
Back in December, my sister, her good friend, and I took a winter pasta class with the fabulous Zoe Maya at my favorite place, Haven's Kitchen, where we made this dreamy, knockout Pappardelle Carbonara with Kale, Leeks, and Bacon.
Literally, knockout for Minna though.
I hadn't touched gluten in about three months prior to this class because of all my autoimmune/thyroid issues. While it was heavenly delicious, I sadly crawled into bed the second I got home with a severe stomachache and headache and passed out immediately.
As I started to explore healthier cooking two years ago, I tried pretty much every type of noodle and pasta possible- rice, vermicelli, egg, flour, potato, bean: whatever it is, I've tried it. Unfortunately, most noodles have such high carb content and low protein content, that I wouldn't include it as a feasible option as a main dish for most weekday dinners. Not only that, but there were also some cranky, hangry days where a girl just wanted straight up "normal" pasta after working out.
The awesome folks over at Banza sent me some boxes to try it out and recipe-test if I liked the pasta itself. I had seen boxes of it at Mario Batali's Eataly before, but never had tried it before.
Now, I love me my chickpeas with hummus and my socca recipe, but I was mildly skeptical of a chickpea pasta- after all, I've had bean-based pasta before and it was difficult to use like regular pasta.
Guys, I've finally found it. The pasta that has texture just like the good ol' fashioned traditional boxed pasta I grew up with, an amazing protein to carb ratio, a deliciously subtle nutty taste from the chickpeas, and just so happens to be gluten-free and won't kill my stomach with my current health situation.
A serving of Banza has double the protein of regular pasta (14g opposed to 7 g), and almost half of the carb content (24g opposed to 40g). 14g protein/24g carb is just about that 1:2 protein/carb ratio us trainers like for a post-workout meal to help jumpstart your body's recovery. Trust me, it's even startling to me that it's coming from a simple pasta. And major bonus- it takes only 4-6 minutes to cook, which is way less time than normal boxed pasta and it's so easy. Winning at the weeknight pasta dinner game, people!
I mentioned the pasta I made at Haven's Kitchen because Chef Zoe Maya's recipe is what gave me inspiration for this particular dish. I wanted to ease up on the cheese content (I'm trying to limit my dairy intake), and it turns out with this dish you don't even need it if you want to go dairy-free. It's amazing what a simple winter squash like butternut can do, to provide creamy flavor and rich texture without making things too caloric.
But I highly recommend this Sage-Maple Bacon for my carnivorous readers... because, bacon.
This dish is also seriously not intimidating or difficult, but it seems very dressed-up and fancy if you want to cook to impress. Also, if you ever have a mac & cheese craving, this one is a solid go-to recipe if you want to avoid a food baby.
On to it!
Butternut Squash Carbonara with Sage-Maple Bacon, with Banza Chickpea Pasta
*makes 2 servings
4-6oz. Banza Pasta, rotini shape (holds this sauce best!)
1lb Butternut Squash, peeled/seeded/cubed into 1/2" pieces (about 1.5 cups)
1/2 small Onion
1 clove Garlic, chopped or crushed
1 cup low-sodium free-range Chicken Broth
1 tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
~4 oz. Bacon (or pancetta if you wish), chopped
1/2 tbsp Sage, finely chopped
1 tsp Pure Maple Syrup
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino (optional)
1/4 cup shaved Pecorino for garnish
1. On medium-high heat, heat up olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven. Add bacon in carefully, reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes. Add in maple syrup, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add in sage and mix together. Remove bacon mixture using a slotted spoon, and set aside on a small plate.
2. Add onion, garlic, and squash to the same skillet over medium heat. Cook for 8-10 minutes until onion is translucent and stir occasionally.
3. Pour chicken broth into skillet then bring mixture up to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is reduced by half and squash is soft (about 15 minutes). Add salt and pepper if you wish. Set mixture aside to let cool while you proceed.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. While waiting for water to boil, you can add the squash mixture to a blender and purée sauce until smooth. Set aside.
5. Add Banza rotini to boiling water, and cook for 4-5 minutes until al dente. Drain in a strainer, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Give pasta a quick rinse under warm water.
6. In the large reserved skillet, combine Banza, squash purée, and a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Cook over medium heat, stirring mixture and adding pasta cooking liquid as needed until noodles are evenly coated.
*If you wish to add grated parmesan or pecorino, do so now.
7. Plate pasta, top with bacon, optional shaved pecorino, and salt and pepper to taste.