Our trip to Shanghai with all of its street markets got me longing for our own Eastern Market and all of its variety. I mentioned to my wife, as we made the 13 hour flight home, that a trip to the market on the following Saturday was in order.
That Saturday morning, we were greeted with an amazing array of produce and fall flowers. The local farmers were selling the last of the summer harvest; tomatoes, corn, and fresh beans and bringing in the fall crop of root vegetables; potatoes, carrots, parsnips, a huge assortment of squashes and the fall harvest of fruit, including locally grown apples, pears and wine grapes. In addition, the market was awash with the color of thousands of chrysanthemums in full bloom.
All of which, brings me back to the butternut squash. I bought it with the specific intention of making a squash risotto, which my wife loves, but it was large enough that I only needed half that day for the recipe and a week later, the other half was still greeting me as I opened the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. I had thought about just roasting and mashing the other half to use as a side with some pork chops, But as I’ve found before, inspiration can come from any where and I found a recipe from celebrity cook, Nigella Lawson for a pasta dish using butternut squash in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
I did alter the recipe a bit to make it for two rather than six. I used 1 1/2 pounds of peeled and cubed squash. I roasted the squash in a 350 degree F. oven for 30 minutes with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper before adding it to the pan to make the sauce. This produced a creamier sauce that coated the noodles with the squash. The pan roasting she describes will yield a sauce with distinct pieces of squash throughout. Also, I used only 8 ounces of pasta, a whole wheat noodle, rather than the 16 ounces recommended, some might object to the ratio of sauce to noodle but that’s the way we like it and the pasta police did not come knocking on our door.
Nigella Lawson’s Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese
- 1 large butternut squash, 2-3/4- 3-1/4 lbs., or 1-3/4 lbs. ready-cubed (6 cups)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp. Marsala
- 1/2 cup water
- 2/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 lb. pappardelle or other robust pasta
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 5 oz. soft blue cheese, such as Saint Agur
1. Peel, halve, and seed the butternut squash; cut into roughly 1-inch cubes.
2. Cook onion in olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan that can accommodate the pasta later. When the onion starts to become golden, add the paprika.
3. Stir butter and squash into onion mixture in pan. Add Marsala and water. Bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer about 10 minutes or until squash is tender but still holds its shape.
4. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to boiling; add hefty pinch of salt. Cook pasta according to package directions. Toast pine nuts in a hot, dry frying pan o the stove top until dark gold. Pour them into a bowl or onto a plate to cool.
5. Lightly season squash mixture to taste with salt (the blue cheese will add additional saltiness). Remove from heat.
6. Finely chop sage; sprinkle over the squash, reserving some for serving.
7. Remove about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water with a ladle or mug; drain pasta. Add drained pasta to the squash mixture. Gently stir to combine. If sauce is too dry or mixture won’t come together, add some of the reserved cooking water; the starch in it encourages the sauce to emulsify and cling to the pasta. Stir in most of the pine nuts and blue cheese. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining sage, pine nuts, and cheese. Makes 6 (1-1/2 cup) servings plus leftovers.