Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan
Okay, first things first—Can I just go ahead and say that my Baracky road ice cream worked? I knew my efforts of trying to finish off the batch with a friend on election night were worth it. Because let me tell you, it is hard work to shovel in spoonful after spoonful of that rich ice cream with some homemade chocolate sauce once the point of fullness has been reached. So yes, if you insist, I will take the credit for why we still have the Obama administration in the White House. Heaven forbid what might have happened if I had made Mitt chocolate chip ice cream instead.
(By the way, isn’t this the nicest photo of the Obamas ever? Sigh, I wish I were a part of that family.)
Anyway! Back to the mundane and exclusively non-political realm of food from now on. We’re in the home-stretch of reaching the holidays, friends, and I could not be more happy about it. These flavors here, the earthy squash and sage, is a reminder to me that home and Thanksgiving are not so far away. Now, I’m not sure if this is one of those flavor combinations that has been so overly circulated and widespread among the general population that, by this point, it bores some of you to tears. Has it? That’s an honest question, because after seeing it here and then here, as well seeing the results on a google search, it seems that butternut squash-sage everything exists.
This is, however, both a very new and very exciting flavors to me. If you’re like me and haven’t the luxury of yawning at this post right now, if nothing else please go out buy butternut squash and roast its rosy-orange flesh with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced sage until the squash is meltingly-tender. You can go through the extra steps, like I did, of quickly sauteeing it with some penne, parmesan, and then top it with some toasted hazelnuts and little fried sage leaves, but I honestly think the majority of the satisfaction of this dish lies in those near-mushy little cubes of squash roasted with sage.
But when finished, this dish has a warmth to it that I don’t think can be explained away by just looking at the individuality of the ingredients. There must be some magic to it, then, when you roast the herby sage with the squash and let it settle into the pasta with some salty parmesan cheese and nutty hazelnuts. If I were to make this again (which I will, because let’s be honest—I have a tupperware full of extra roasted and saged squash that I made once realizing that I my love for these flavors needed to exist beyond dinner last night), I would sautee the squash and pasta together a little longer. I thought I didn’t want the squash to break down completely, but I think I would have liked it a bit mushier. Sounds less appealing, but probably tastes so much better.
One Year Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake
1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled and
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, loosely packed, divided
12 ounces penne
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
freshly grated parmesan
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel the squash, then cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out its seeds. Cube into about 3/4-inch chunks. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet, and then drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mince about half of the sage leaves and then sprinkle that on top, too. Gently toss so that the oil and sage coats the squash cubes as evenly as possible, and then spread it all so it is one even layer on the baking sheet. Roast until the squash is tender and soft, about 30-40 minutes, taking out the pan halfway through to turn over the squash.
Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to boil, add a few big pinches of salt, and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking liquid.
While both the squash is roasting and the water is boiling, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, drop in the rest of the sage leaves and cook until crisp, about one minute, before removing them with a slotted spoon and setting them aside. In the remaining heated oil, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, but not brown. Once soft, add in the pasta, reserved cooking liquid, butternut squash, and pan-fry until the pasta begins to crisp and the squash begins to break down. Grate in some parmesan cheese and add most of the hazelnuts and stir to combine. Serve, topping each plate of pasta with another dose of parmesan, and a sprinkling of the fried sage.