Creamy Squash Rigatoni
Whew. After a whirlwind week in San Diego with my family for Thanksgiving, it was kind of strange to come back to my small, quiet, still little house in Walla Walla. And also, it was cold. It is decidedly winter. And while I’m so not a fan of wintery things like frost and being cold, I am a huge fan of wintery things like squash and pot roast and sweaters and being cozy in my little house while the wind howls away outside. This pasta is perfect for that. It is also very rich. When I cooked this it was probably the first time I served myself dinner and couldn’t finish it. And not because it’s not good. It’s great, and I heartily enjoyed the leftovers. But be warned: It is rich. It might be best to serve this in small portions, with a crisp and light side salad.
I’ve decided to try to work toward at least a 75% vegetarian diet, so the Vegetarian cookbook I bought last year, and from which this recipe was derived, is starting to come in handy. However, I’ve realized that most of the recipes require some kind of modification, usually because the directions as written sound ludicrous. For example, this recipe, originally for Pumpkin Rigatoni, called for cutting the squash into bite-size pieces and sauteing them in a skillet for all of 10 minutes. However, the pictures showed something creamy and luscious, almost a squash-based sauce. There is no way squash can get creamy and saucy in 10 minutes. Modifications were necessary.
They were also necessary because I never again want to try to peel and cut a winter squash into bite-sized pieces while it’s still raw. Life is too short.
I used a squash a bought at the Farmers’ Market back in October. I don’t really know what kind of squash it is, though I suspect acorn. The little kid who sold it to me told me it was a good choice, though I could have bought a bigger one for 20 cents more. The skin was streaked with rich forest green and golden yellow, and it was so pretty I almost didn’t want to eat it. But the barely sweet meat convinced me it worth it. And once it was broken down into a thick sauce of vegetable broth, nutmeg, and cream, well, it was more than worth it.
Creamy Squash Rigatoni
Adapted from a vegetarian cookbook with no author and apparently unfindable online
- 1 small acorn squash
- 2 T. butter
- 1/3 c. pine nuts
- 1 leek
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 c. vegetable broth
- salt and pepper
- about 1/2 to 3/4 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. rigatoni pasta
Heat the oven to 375F. Halve the acorn squash and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Place the halves, cut side down, into a baking dish, and add about 1/2 a cup of water. Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the squash is soft enough to come away from the skin easily, but not so soft it’s mushy.
Meanwhile, toast the pinenuts. You can either do this in a toaster oven, in a skillet on the stove, or in the oven, but if you choose either the toaster oven or the big oven, watch them very carefully. They burn in a heartbeat. As you can see, I burned mine and had to throw away half them, which hurt my soul a little bit.
Put some water on to boil for the pasta.
When the squash is done, remove from the oven and let cool until you can touch it without burning yourself. Peel away the skin, and cut teh squash into 1-inch pieces. Slice the leek, and clean out any sand (I am sometimes lazy about this part). Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s melted, add the leeks, and spread them into a single layer in the pan. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. Then add the squash and the nutmeg, and stir well. Saute for a few minutes, just until the squash gets a very little bit browned. Then stir in the broth, scraping up any squash and leek bits stuck to the pan. Bring the broth to a boil.
This would probably be a good time to add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook it.
Stir the squash mixture occasionally. The squash should start to break down a bit in the broth. Cook it for about eight minutes, then stir in the cream. Let it come to a boil again, and cook for another four or five minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The pasta should be done by now, so drain it and either mix the pasta into the squash mixture, or spoon it into dishes and top with the squash. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, and if you have some a little parsley, which might brighten the dish up a little bit.
Yes, it’s rich. But if winter isn’t a time to eat rich, creamy squash dishes, then I don’t know when that time is.