Here’s another one, like that cabbage, that I have been meaning to write about for a while and somehow have kept not getting around to, even though it’s really good. I don’t know what the deal is with that. I think it just takes a bit of turning things over in my mind before I can think of anything to say about them, since I do keep trying to be remotely interesting. I’m kind of like Mr. Collins who delights in spending some of his spare time in devising little compliments to pay the ladies, but tries to give them as unstudied of an air as possible (obscure Pride and Prejudice reference – I’m afraid I’ve read that book more times than I can count; I’m a hopeless romantic/geek). That is to say, I often think for a while about a food or a subject to try to come up with at least one amusing (well, at least to me) thing to say about it, and then I’ll suddenly sit down and write in a stream of consciousness.
So now, after ample amounts of time to muse on the topic of pasta with butternut squash, what earth shattering insights do I have to offer? Er, um, well, none, really. Except that it’s just really, really delicious. According to Joel, it’s one of the best things he’s ever eaten (unfortunately for my ego, this was in reference to a version that a friend of ours made, oh well). It’s a great fall-ish dish for when butternut squash has just come into season, but it’s also cozy and warming in winter when you suddenly discover that you still have a box of butternut squash stored very cleverly under piles of aprons, grocery bags, tupperwares, and other miscellany in your pantry (I take a cue from squirrels, hiding things so “cleverly” I forget about them and can’t find them if I’m looking for them). Sweet, mild butternut squash is so good with a little sharp cheese and olive oil tossed with pasta and salty, rich Italian sausage (sweet or spicy). I’m sure it would be good with bacon or pancetta bits instead of sausage. And, if you don’t eat meat, it’s just as good without it too.
In fact, if you’re not using sausage, I think this leaves a bit more room to switch up the type of cheese you’re using. With Italian sausage, I feel the best cheeses are nutty, sharp hard Italian cheeses that you would typically use with pasta – Parmesan or Asiago. But without the sausage, a lot of salty, nutty, smokey or sharp flavors would work. I’ve made it with sharp cheddar, which was totally yummy. You could also try Fontina, or smoked gouda, or maybe even blue cheese crumbles. If I’m in the mood for a bit more herbal flavor (that will accentuate the autumnal feel of the pasta) I add a bit of thyme or sage, but this is really optional too.
Pasta with Butternut Squash and Italian Sauasage (serves about 6)
- 1 medium butternut squash
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar (optional)
- about 1 lb. pasta (I think a shorter, heartier type of noodle like farfalle, penne, or orechiette work better for tossing than spaghetti, but really any will work)
- a few Italian sausages (sweet or spicy), optional
- ½ cup grated parmesan (or other cheese – use more if omitting the sausage)
- a pinch of thyme or sage, optional
- Peel the butternut squash (with just a normal vegetable peeler), cut it in half, and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into ½ inch square-ish pieces. Toss with a big splash of olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar (if desired). Roast in the oven at 425F until soft when stabbed with a fork, I would guess about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- In the meantime, squeeze the Italian sausages out of their cases (slimy, gooey, carnal, have fun, hehe!) and fry until brownded in a large frying pan, breaking apart into chunks as it cooks. Remove from the frying pan to a plate and pour off the oil.
- Mince a couple cloves of garlic, heat a couple of Tbs. of olive oil in the same large frying pan, sautee the garlic for a couple of minutes then add in the squash and sausage and stir together for a minute. Turn off the heat.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, add a pinch of salt, and boil the pasta until al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta. Drain the pasta and toss the pasta with the squash and sausage mixture, grated cheese, and thyme or sage if desired. Add a splash of the pasta water as you mix to help bind everything together (add a bit more if everything still seems too dry). Salt and pepper to taste. This makes a great one pot meal, but usually I like to serve it with some green vegetables because I’m just kind of obsessed with eating greens.