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Butternut Squash and Sage Pasta

October 26, 2008

Butternut Squash and Pine Nut Pasta

Ahh, fall. Fall is the one thing I appreciate about New England. I love the cool days that seem to demand warm, cozy evenings at home, and the smell of crisp air and fireplaces, and most of all I love the abundance of multicolored winter squashes. I love fall food, and this pasta dish has made it into the pantheon of favorites. It’s so simple, and yet for all its simplicity its packed full of buttery, woodsy, perfect fall evening flavor.

I saw the recipe a few weeks ago on The Kitchn, and while mine didn’t turn out quite the same as the original, it was none too shabby. The recipe as written calls for pan frying the pasta a bit, so it and the squash get a bit crunchy and browned. And, well? I was hungry, and I just didn’t have the patience to wait for browning that didn’t seem to be happening. So I went ahead with what I had, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Sage Leaves

It’s hard to be disappointed in any dish that includes sage and butternut squash. I sometimes suspect that there are no two flavors that belong together as clearly as sage and butternut squash. The onions here add a bit of depth to the sweetness of the squash, and the pinenuts, a very satisfying bit of crunchiness. The only thing that might, potentially, improve on this would be goat cheese, either instead of or in addition to the parmesan. In fact, if this included goat cheese it would be nearly a dead ringer for one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had: the Lunch for Henry at Veggie Planet in Cambridge. (Oh no. Now that I’ve reminded myself of the Lunch for Henry, I’m going to have to either get myself out to Cambridge soon or attempt to make this wonderful, genius pizza at home.)

I also contemplated making this pasta dish as a casserole. I’m not sure how well that would work out with the pine nuts, but I suspect it could be pretty darned near perfect.

Pasta in the Pan

But I’m babbling on about other food instead of telling you what’s going on with this, and that’s just a shame, because THIS is really darned near perfect, as it is. I didn’t change the recipe much, other than substituting half a red onion for the yellow onion, because it’s what I had and I thought it would be good. I also cooked the squash ahead of time and re-warmed it in a skillet before mixing in the pasta and the rest of the sage. And, well, as I mentioned, I was too impatient to let it get those crusty, browned pan-fried bits.

Butternut Squash and Sage Pasta

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 T. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 c. fresh sage leaves
  • about 2 c. pasta, preferably a short shape with some nooks and crannies to capture the butternut squash mixture
  • 3/4 c. pine nuts
  • a good 3/4 c. parmesan

I also just noticed that the original recipe calls for toasted pine nuts. I didn’t toast them, and I didn’t think anything was lacking, but if you felt so inclined, you could throw the pine nuts into a 350F oven for about four or five minutes. Just watch out, because they burn right quick.

Heat the oven to 375F. Peel and cut the squashI usually cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the innards, and then peel each half before cutting the squash into about 1-inch pieces. I sometimes contemplate peeling the squash first, but I suspect that would make it more slippery and harder to cut in half. But that’s just me talking. You can come at that squash anyway that makes you happy.

Once you’ve cut it up in to bits, toss it with the onion, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper, and spread out in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Mince half the sage leaves, and sprinkle them across the squash mixture, and roast the whole shebang for about 45 to 50 minutes.

When the squash is done to your desired softness (meaning, would you prefer the squash to remain relatively solid, or for it to squashy puree sauce with the pasta?), heat a bit pot of salted water to cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, heat about half a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. When it’s hot, add the remaining whole sage leaves, and cook them for about a minute or two, until they’re nice and crispy. Remove them from the oil, let them cool a bit, and then smash them into an oily pulp with a spoon.

Now, add the cooked pasta and the squash to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is heated through and well mixed. Add the pine nuts, the crushed sage, and the parmesan cheese, stir well, and cook for another few minutes.

Pine nuts, squash, and sage

If you’d really like the pasta to pan fry, you probably want to follow the advice in the original and cook the pasta and squash mixture together in two batches. My skillet, despite the fact that it’s ginormous, was too crowded for the pasta to brown at all. No matter, it was delicious, and suddenly, I knew it was fall, and months of squash-based dinners were stretching out before me. Which is about the only thing that makes a Boston winter tolerable.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. kim permalink
    October 31, 2008 11:33 am

    oh that looks too delicious…yay on fall foods. I’m excited because homemade soup making is just around the corner!

  2. sarah permalink
    November 1, 2009 12:24 pm

    I added some brown sugar.


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