Pasta with Butternut Squash and Sage


This is not from the WF cookbook.  You can tell because it involves BACON FAT as the primary flavor base.  Nom nom nom.  (It is, in fact, from the Jan/Feb issue of Cook’s Illustrated, and will be online free until the next issue comes out.  Or you can join the site for $20/year.  I think.  Maybe a different price.)  Or you can read it free here forever!

The recipe calls for penne, but I was in the mood to make fresh pasta.  I used Marcella Hazan’s very simple recipe of 2 eggs and 1 cup of AP flour, mixed with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, then kneaded briefly with the dough hook and kneaded a little more by hand before being put through the rollers.  Your pasta will be even better if you let it rest for about 5 minutes before rolling, which gives you just enough time to peel and cube a butternut squash.  (My pasta machine is the pasta machine attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer, which I LURVE.  It is Teh Awesome.)  For this dish, I simply rolled out sheets to the #6 setting and cut them by hand into what Marcella informs me is a shape called maltagliati, which translates as “badly cut.”  It’s a pleasingly rustic shape that works well with this type of sauce.  (And takes much less time than hand-rolling any variety of short tubular pasta.)

Before you start doing anything, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil so that your pasta wil be ready to cook by the time you need it.  (If the water boils sooner, you can always turn it down a bit and hold it at a simmer.)

While your pasta is resting (see above), peel and cube 1 butternut squash into 1/2 inch cubes.  Also cut 4 slices of bacon lengthwise and then into 1/4″ lardons.  (Lardons is fancy chef-speak for “pieces of bacon.”)  Add the bacon to a large skillet over high heat and cook about 8 minutes or until crispy, tossing occasionally so it cooks evenly.

Add 8 whole sage leaves to the bacon and fry 1 minute, then drain into a heat-resistant bowl, reserving both the bacon fat and the bacon pieces with sage.  Return 2 tbsp bacon fat to the skillet.  (If by some miracle your bacon did not yield 2 tbsp of fat, add EVOO.)  To this, add the squash and cook 5 minutes without turning.  Then toss and cook about 4 minutes more until browned on more than one side.

While the squash is cooking, chop 1/2 an onion and 1 tbsp additional fresh sage.

Add 1 tbsp unsalted butter to the squash (I told you this wasn’t a WF recipe!) and let melt.  Add the onion and chopped sage along with 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, pepper to taste.  (Note: the original recipe called for scallions, which I did not have.  The onion was just fine.)  Cook about 3 minutes or until onion is softened.  Add 2 cups chicken broth (low sodium if canned) and simmer about 3 minutes or until squash is tender and silky.

I know 2 cups seems like a lot of broth, but it really does reduce into just the right thickness to coat the pasta.  You did remember to cook and drain the pasta, right?  Add the drained pasta to the squash mixture and turn off the heat.  Return the bacon/sage mixture to the pan and toss thoroughly to combine.

Serve with parmesan cheese, a squeeze of lemon, and a handful of toasted almond slivers.

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Dylan Report: It took a little persuasion to get him to try the squash (in spite of the fact that butternut squash was practically the first solid food he ever ate and he LOVES it), but once he took a bite, he was pretty happy with it.  He would have preferred to just have plain pasta with bacon fat, but I made him eat some vegetables anyway because I’m a mean Mommy.

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