A flavorful and filling bowl of autumn-inspired pasta features sweet potatoes as its main ingredient. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

I do love pasta, although I don’t often indulge. But when I do, I want to make it count. The tasty components of this main dish go together quickly and have some flexibility. Winter squash can sub for the potatoes, and pancetta, prosciutto or even leftover ham instead of bacon can be added to the baking sheet of vegetables during the last 10 minutes or so of roasting, if that’s what you have on hand.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

If you don’t want to mix these smoky ingredients up with pasta, enjoy it as a side dish, heap it on to a green salad or a slice of thick toasty bread, or snuggle it all up in a wrap.

These cookie bars are extra. Extra decadent that is, especially with the addition of cream cheese frosting. The dough will be thick and sticky, so you’ll want to use wet hands or a rubber spatula to work with it. Take the blondies out of the oven when they’re just a bit underdone and gooey in the middle.

If you don’t want to serve these bars with cream cheese frosting, add just a suggestion of sugar glaze or even leave them stark naked. That way, you can opt for a topping of ice cream and/or caramel sauce or a spritz of whipped cream. No matter how you choose to serve this dessert, I’ve got you covered.

Pasta with Smoky Sweet Potatoes & Bacon

3 medium (3-4 cups) sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
6 slices bacon, diced 2 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 small red onion, chopped
8 ounces pasta, your choice
1/4 cup fresh chives or parsley, snipped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine sweet potatoes and bacon on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil and toss to combine. Roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with paprika and add the onion to the pan. Toss to combine and place back in the oven to continue roasting for 15 more minutes or until potatoes and onions are tender and caramelized and bacon is crisp.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Remove sweet potatoes, onion and bacon from the oven and scrape the contents into a large bowl, including any browned bits. Add 1/4 cup pasta water, pasta, herbs, (reserving some for garnish) and Parmesan. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust salt and pepper and add more pasta water if needed. Serve with additional cheese. Yield: 4 servings

Cinnamon Roll Blondies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper or generously butter. Set aside. With a standing mixer or an electric hand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and almond extract.

Add dry ingredients, mixing until well combined. (The dough will be thick.)

Divide the dough in half and press half into bottom of prepared baking pan.

Spoon cinnamon filling over top of dough, spreading in an even layer. Press remaining dough on top of cinnamon filling, spreading evenly. (Flatten pieces of dough in your hand, then place on top of the filling. This makes it easier to spread the dough over the filling.)

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the center is set. (If the bars look like they’re browning too quickly, tent a piece of foil over the top.) Allow bars to cool completely before frosting. Yield: 9 brownies

Filling

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl. Chill for 5 minutes to thicken. Set aside.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups powedered sugar
1 tablespoon whipping cream

Cream butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in sugar, vanilla and cream. Frost bars and sprinkle with cinnamon.

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