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Monday, December 10, 2012

pasta with roasted butternut squash & brown butter

the combination of roasted butternut squash, brown butter, parmigiana and sage is simply heavenly. ravioli stuffed with sweet, rich winter squash is classic, but also a fair amount of work to make from scratch. I wanted those flavors in a dish that was easy to make; cooking bits of roasted squash in brown butter with freshly-cooked pasta did the trick. I tossed in some potatoes (Yukon Golds are ideal, but feel free to use a different variety, as long as you choose a firm, non-mealy potato -- russet potatoes won't work here), onion and carrots to roast alongside the squash, and their flavors contributed to the dish. of course, as long as you have plenty of roasted squash, you can skip the other veggies if you don't have them on hand. for those who doubt the wisdom of combining potatoes and pasta, they complement each other and meld to become the very definition of "comfort food."

  • 1 small butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed
  • 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into strips or slices
  • butter to grease roasting pan
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 4 tablespoons fresh sage leaves: 1 tablespoon whole, 3 tablespoons sliced into a fine chiffonade
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup + grated parmigiana reggiano (or grana padano)
  • tiny pinch ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound dried pasta, cooked al dente
  • *1/2 package (4 ounces) cream cheese or neufchatel, optional
heat oven to 400 degrees F. arrange squash (cut side down), onions, potatoes and carrots in roasting pan, strew whole sage leaves and thyme sprigs over top and roast for 40-50 minutes, until all vegetables are tender. remove herbs and discard. cut carrots and potatoes into a small dice, remove skin from squash and chop into a larger dice. 

heat 6 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat until browned -- not too fast! you don't want the butter to burn. your goal is to cook the milk solids until the butter is deep golden brown with darker brown flecks. it should smell indescribably delicious. pour 4 tablespoons of the butter out into a bowl, and toss in the sliced fresh sage. return the pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown butter to the burner, and toss in the carrots, potatoes and onions. saute for a few minutes to soften vegetables, then add the squash. toss around and smash the squash with the back of a wooden spoon until some of the water is cooked out, and the squash is creamy and soft. add the smallest pinch of nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper. pour in the reserved brown butter with sage and the cooked pasta, and toss over medium heat until warmed through. add in the parmigiana, taste again for salt & pepper and voila, it's ready to serve!

*if you want to send this dish over the top (and why wouldn't you?), stir a few ounces of cream cheese or neufchatel in at the end. the creamy flavor goes perfectly with the squash, and your eyes will roll back into your head. really!

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