It seems that almost everything I make these days involves butternut squash or chard. A few weeks ago, it was Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto. Then, it was my favorite chard and onion torta from Deborah Madison. This past week, just to liven things up, I made something with both, the pasta with roasted butternut squash and greens from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper. I mentioned this pasta the first time I wrote about a recipe from this book (the wonderful soup with fresh greens and alphabets), and I've made it numerous times since then, but somehow, I'm not getting around to writing about it til now.
No matter. Despite our lack of snow in western New England, it remains winter here, and fresh vegetables are not in abundant supply. Still, it's possible to get nice-looking, even local, butternut squash and chard (though this is less likely to be local). This pasta dish is nice because it's delicious, first of all, and relatively quick (more about that in a minute) but mostly because it's a nice change from my usual pasta with a tomato-related sauce.
Lynne Rosetto Kasper said that this dish takes 10 minutes to prep. I think she either has a sous chef or she is deluded. I can't figure out how she can possibly prep this dish in 10 minutes when peeling and chopping (or even just chopping) several pounds of butternut squash is involved, not to mention washing and chopping the chard, not to mention the onions and garlic. Anyway, even with the longer than anticipated prep, this is a relatively speedy dinner to make. (Just make sure you allot more than 10 minutes for it.) Although I usually don't buy pre-peeled or chopped vegetables, I make an exception here. A local store (Atkin's Farm, home of the cider doughnut) sells bags of peeled butternut squash, and when I want to make this pasta, that's what I buy. Then it's just a matter of chopping it, which is much quicker.
The sequence is this. Make sure you pre-heat the oven with the pan in it. (I've forgotten this more than once.) While the pre-heating is going on, you combine all of your chopped vegetables in a bowl:
Then, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, brown sugar and herbs. When the oven is pre-heated and the pan hot enough, spread the vegetables on the hot pan. Make sure you keep an eye on the vegetables while they're cooking, and don't worry if the quantities look enormous. They cook down substantially while in the oven.
You can cook the pasta while the vegetables are in the oven, so everything can be ready to combine as soon as the vegetables are ready. Once they're done, it's just a matter of mixing with the half and half and the cheese and adding more salt and pepper to taste.
One more thing I should note--this full recipe makes a lot of pasta. Really, like a lot. So, good for dinner for 6 people (and some leftover), less good for 1 or 2 people who don't want to be eating this every day for a week. When I made this last, I used a 2 1/2 pound squash, 1 supermarket bunch of chard and about 3/4 pound of pasta. (I didn't fiddle much with the rest of the amounts.) This provided me with one dinner and 2 lunches early in the week and dinner for Alex and me later in the week. We both looked at our empty plates regretfully, and it seemed better to want more than to feel oppressed by the leftovers. No matter the quantity, though, I do highly recommend making this pasta. Soon enough, there will be lovely spring dishes on the menu, so we might as well appreciate an excellent winter dish like this while we can.
Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Greens
Adapted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper
5 quarts salted water in a 6-quart pot
3 to 3-1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium to large onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 big handfuls greens; Kasper suggests escarole or curly endive or spring mix, I use chard; all should be washed, dried and torn or chopped into small pieces
1/3 tight-packed cup fresh basil leaves, torn, if available, or 1 tsp. dried
16 large fresh sage leaves, torn, or 1 tbsp. dried
5 large garlic cloves, coarse chopped
1/3 cup good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tight-packed tablespoon brown sugar (light or dark)
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Pasta and Finish:
1 pound bow-tie pasta (see above)
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 to 1-1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese (I've used Manchego, Gruyere and Pecorino Romano, all to good effect)
1. Slip one large or two smaller shallow sheet pans into the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Bring the salted water to a boil.
2. In a big bowl, toss together all the ingredients for the roasted vegetables. Be generous with the salt and pepper.
3. Pull out the oven rack holding the sheet pan. Taking care not to burn yourself, turn the squash blend onto the hot sheet pan and spread it out. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the squash is tender, turning the vegetables two or three times during roasting.
4. As the squash becomes tender, drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook it until tender, but with some firmness to the bite. Drain in a colander.
5. Once the squash is tender, turn on the broiler to caramelize it. Watch the vegetables closely, turning the pieces often. Anticipate about 5 minutes under the broiler. You want crusty brown edges on the squash and wilted, almost crisp greens.
6. Scrape everything into a serving bowl. Add the half-and-half, hot pasta, and 1 cup of the cheese. Toss to blend, tasting for salt and pepper. Add more cheese if desired. Serve hot.