Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pan-Fried Pasta with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, and Pine Nuts

One of my favorite cooking sites is The Kitchn because not only are they generally socially conscious (advocating fresh, in-season, locally grown products, farmer's markets, CSAs, etc.) but because they also update several times a day so almost every time I check back, they have something new to read. I often find the inspiration to try a new dish there, and so far this one has been my favorite. I brought it to small group once, and someone who didn't think she liked squash said that she loved the dish. I gave them the recipe, and I know it's been made multiple times since.

It's a little too late to find butternut squash at the farmer's market now, but I know they're still being sold in the supermarkets. If you really want to save time (although probably not money), you can buy the squash all peeled and cut up already. But if you want to peel and cut it up yourself, this is what I usually do:
  1. Cut off the top (so that you have an edge to start peeling from) and bottom (so that you have a level surface to stand the squash upright).
  2. Use a vegetable peeler (I use a Palm Peeler which was given to me by jalzee--one of the most useful gifts ever!) and peel the skin from top to bottom, going around the whole squash. You may find that you will need to do several layers before you get past the pale skin and to the brighter colored and softer flesh. Alternatively, you can just peel using a knife, but I find using a peeler is safer and less wasteful.
  3. Cut the squash in half horizontally (along the equator), then cut each half in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds and icky stuff from the cavity of the bottom part.
  4. Slice the squash into 1" wide sticks and then turn the stick 90 degrees and cut into 1" chunks.
Squash, Onions, Garlic, Sage, and Olive Oil

Pan-Fried Pasta with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, and Pine Nuts (adapted from The Kitchn)
Makes 4-6 servings
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
1 pound farfalle pasta
3/4 cup pine nuts
4 ounces high quality Parmesan, shredded or shaved (I actually like less)

Heat the oven to 375°.

Mince about half of the fresh sage leaves and toss with the butternut squash, onion, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the squash mixture in a thin layer on a large baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes or until the squash is soft.

In the meantime, heat up a large, high-sided, un-oiled sauté pan until hot and toss in the nuts. Try to spread them out in a single layer and stir every 30 seconds or so until browned and you can smell the nutty aroma. These burn rather quickly so make sure you are paying attention! When toasted, set aside.

Heat salted pasta water to boiling and cook the farfalle until al dente. Drain and set aside.

As the squash finishes roasting, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in the sauté pan. The oil is ready when it pops and sputters. (Don't let it start smoking.) Drop in the rest of the sage leaves and fry for about a minute, or until they begin to just shrivel up. Remove with a slotted spoon (leaving the sage-seasoned olive oil in the pan) and salt lightly. Crush with the back of a spoon.

Add half the pasta to the pan, along with half the roasted squash mixture. Crumble in half the sage. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes or until the pasta is heated through and getting crispy on some of the edges. Add the pine nuts and cook for another minute. Stir in half the cheese, salt to taste, and serve.

Repeat the last step with the rest of the ingredients. It's very important that you not crowd the pan too much - you want the pasta to really pan-fry, not just steam up.

Pan-Fried Pasta with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, and Pine Nuts

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