Monday, September 27, 2004
PASTA WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH, GARLIC, AND SAGE
This was the recipe (from Jack Bishop’s Pasta e Verdura, of course) that made me decide to like butternut squash the first time I made it about a year ago. (In my history of deciding to like vegetables, this was after Deciding to Like Asparagus and Avocados, but before Deciding to Like Eggplant. I swear, I’m not intentionally going alphabetically.) Of course, garlic and butter never made anything worse, but I liked the squash itself—much less mealy than I remembered squash being, and sweet and colorful. I’m skeptical about sage as a food (rather than a fragrance), but it cuts the sweetness of the squash and butter. A nice fall meal, though I managed to make and eat it during 90-degree weather.
Half of a 2½-pound butternut squash (or, to simplify things, one whole 1¼-pound butternut squash, if you can find one that small)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
4 medium cloves garlic, slivered
12 large fresh sage leaves, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound penne pasta
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Fill a large pot with salted water, and put it on the stove over high heat for cooking the pasta. Put an inch or two of water in a smaller pot, place a steamer basket in it, and set it on the stove over high heat for steaming the squash.
2. While these are heating, wrangle the squash: cut it in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out and discard the seeds and stringy fibers. With a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from one half, then cut the peeled squash into ½-inch cubes. The recipe says there should be about 3 cups cubed squash. (I ended up needing more than half of my squash--almost all of it, really--to get this much, but I’d deliberately chosen a runty one at the farmer’s market so I didn’t have to deal with leftovers. If you do only use half your squash, Jack recommends saving the other half to roast in the oven for a later meal or side dish.) The squash-steaming water should be boiling by this point, so put the squash in the steamer basket and steam it until it's tender but not mushy (Jack says 10-12 minutes, but I think maybe mine took less time). At some point during this process, the water for the pasta will boil; pour in the penne and cook it until al dente.
3. While the squash is steaming and pasta is cooking, heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When it's warm, add the garlic and sauté over medium heat “until golden brown, about 4 minutes.” (Except I don’t really like browned garlic, so I used sautéed it until it was tender and fragrant, then proceeded.)
4. By this time, the squash should have finished steaming; pull the steamer basket out of the pot. Add the squash, sage, salt, and pepper to the skillet and toss to coat the squash with the oil and butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is heated through, about 3 minutes. Or it can be longer if you're still waiting for the pasta to finish--Jack just says, “The squash should just begin to lose its shape, but not become a mushy puree.”
5. Drain the pasta and toss it with the squash sauce. Add the other tablespoon of butter and mix well. Dish out the pasta into serving/storage bowls, sprinkling each serving with grated cheese and more pepper.
Time: 30-45 minutes