Squash is an inherently seasonal crop that automatically conjures harvest-esque imagery complete with gourds, scarecrows, Halloween decor and maybe even a fun Jack-o-Lantern. From butternut and acorn to kabocha and good ol' pumpkin, the wide world of squashes is a fun autumnal tapestry.
However, an admission: I'm not really a butternut squash fan.
I have — and always will be — obsessed with both pumpkin and pumpkin spice, but for some reason peculiar reason, butternut has never been my thing.
I do, however, like kabocha a lot. It's fun: I love the dark color of its exterior, its shape, the flavor of the flesh. Oh, and the seeds are great roasted (and salted), too. So, in order to celebrate the dawn of autumn, which officially begins this coming week — I figured a kabocha-dotted pasta would be unbeatable.
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Heads up: This is a real create-your-own, mix-and-match, choose-your-own-ending type recipe. It's more of a guide. I'll supply the main characters, but it's up to you to flesh them out as you see fit.
So whether you go all in on customization or you stick with precisely what's outlined, I'm sure your end result will be something delicious and celebratory to welcome the coming of fall.
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1 to 2 kabocha squashes (or butternut, pumpkin or acorn), halved, de-seeded and cubed (conversely, try spiralizing or cutting into "ribbons" with a vegetable peeler for a totally different textural experience)
Olive oil (or whatever oil you'd like)
Freshly ground black pepper
Paprika (smoked, sweet, whatever)
1 bunch sage, picked from stems
1 pound of your favorite pasta (if you're opting for squash cubes, I'd go with a short-cut here, like a penne or ziti. If you're opting for squash ribbons, I'd go with a pappardelle or fettuccine.)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1/3 cup dry white wine (nonalcoholic works fine, as does any stock or broth)
1/4 cup mascarpone
4 ounces ricotta salata, grated on a microplane or "flaked" with your fingers
1/4 cup salted and roasted Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- On a properly anchored, heavy cutting board, halve your squashes with your heaviest, sharpest knife. Kabocha skin can be tough, so apply pressure evenly, carefully and sharply. Scoop out all seeds. Cut each half into halves again. Cut the skin off or conversely, make one even cut separating the flesh from the skin. Cut into 1-inch cubes and add to a sheet pan. (You can also purchase already-cut squash from the grocery store if you're uncomfortable cutting the squash yourself.)
- Add oil, salt, pepper and paprika to squash cubes and stir well. Add to oven and cook until squash is browned, crisped and fully tender, about 30 minutes
- In the last five minutes of cooking, add sage leaves. Stir again. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
- In a large, heavy pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Add salt and pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Before draining, scoop out about a cup of starchy cooking water. Drain.
- While the squash cooks and the water boils, add butter to a large skillet over medium-low heat and melt. Add shallots and cook until translucent.
- Add wine or stock and let reduce, about 5 minutes.
- Add starchy cooking water. You may not need to use all of it. Continue to cook until a sauce begins to come together.
- Turn heat to low, add mascarpone and stir. Taste for seasoning. Adjust, as necessary.
- When the sauce is of the right consistency, the squash is roasted and the pasta is cooked and drained, add squash and pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Stir all together and season once again.
- Grate ricotta salata over the top and then garnish with chopped Marcona almonds.
- Serve with more cheese.