Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Carbonara
mmm...! Something about fall seems to just say SQUASH! Though they're available in supermarkets year round these days, I seem to never notice the squash (other than summer squash, zucchini and their softskinned cousins) until Labor Day's gone and the crisp golden days of September move in for their too-short visit.
Anyway, due to whatever primeval forces are at work -- stars, the tides, the moon -- I found myself picking a nice hefty butternut squash the other day, with no idea at all about what I was going to do with it.
Elise asked if we could have pasta, and that focused my thoughts a little, and then I remembered that one of my goals this fall is to use up as much of the rather huge sage crop I have this year. A little rummaging around in the freezer didn't turn up the sweet Italian sausage I was hoping for but there was a chunk of pancetta and my course was clear.
This pasta was yummy. I think the fettucine was the perfect choice of pasta shape for it, although other long, sturdy shapes would work (spaghetti, linguine). Shells and other formed shapes might be okay, though with so many chunky things in the sauce I like the pasta to be long...smoother sauces that can nestle into the nooks and crannies of shells and orecchiette are better for those shapes. Delicate shapes like pappardelle wouldn't stand up to this hearty sauce at all.
By the way: this preparation, with a little less moisture used, would be a perfect ravioli filling, too!
Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Carbonara
1 butternut squash (I used half a 3 lb squash for this)
3 slices pancetta, cut in sticks 1" long
4 slices American bacon, cut in 1"pieces
1 medium-large Vidalia onion, peeled and cut vertically into thin crescents
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 clove garlic, minced
12 grape tomatoes, sliced
1/2 C Parmeggiano Reggiano, shredded
1/4 C Romano, shredded
hot sauce to taste
12 oz fettucine
1/3 C white wine
1-1/2 C low sodium chicken broth
4 T sage, minced, plus 12 whole leaves
2 T flat leaf parsley, minced
Prick the squash all over with a fork, rub it with olive oil and roast about 1 hour 15 minutes in a 400º oven until a fork penetrates easily to the center. Allow the squash to cool and cut in half. Remove seeds and pulp and scoop the meat out into a bowl. Set aside. (This can be done and refrigerated at least a day ahead if you like.)
Sauté the bacon, crushed garlic and pancetta slowly in a large skillet until just starting to turn crispy at the edges. Remove and drain on paper towels (leave the garlic cloves in the pan.) Pour out and discard all but 1 T of the bacon grease and sauté the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes, until they start to caramelize. Add the wine, 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, and 2/3 of the minced herbs. Return the bacon and pancetta to the pan. Cook on high heat, stirring constantly, for a minute or two until the liquid has reduced a little and coated everything. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Break the eggs into the bowl with the squash and beat slightly with a fork. Add the cheeses and 2/3 of the herbs to the bowl and mix well.
In a small sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter and two tablespoons olive oil until hot but not smoking. Sizzle the whole sage leaves in the hot oil for about a minute, until they darken, while keeping them from touching each other (it may be necessary to do them in two batches). Drain the leaves on paper towel. (This can be done up to an hour ahead if you like.)
Cook the pasta al dente in salted water. When the pasta is almost done, turn the squash mixture into the cooled skillet and mix well with the meat. Warm the pan on low heat briefly just before the pasta is done. Correct seasoning.
Lift the cooked pasta directly from the pot into the skillet with tongs, allowing some of the pasta water to ride along. Turn the heat to high, and add the minced garlic, the reserved herbs and the remaining cup of chicken broth. Using the tongs, toss and swirl the pasta in the skillet for a minute or two until the sauce is well distributed into the pasta, the liquid thickens slightly and everything is warmed through.
To serve, turn into a warmed serving platter or individual plates, scatter on the tomato bits and garnish with the crispy fried sage leaves. A simple salad, crunchy French bread or ciabatta, and a nice Pinot Grigio completes a simple fall supper...or, serve small portions as a primi piatti, following an antipasti plate and preceding a secondi of pan-roasted veal leg or shoulder, with exotic mushroom ragout and a heartier Chianti for a more elegant fall dinner.