I saw the picture of this pasta and I could just taste the richness of roasted squash blended with pasta and two kinds of cheese. It was really easy to imagine the taste. Although squash is a rare veggie to find this time of year, and costs a bit more out of season, I wanted to make this pasta and a pot of curried butternut squash and pear soup. One large squash, please!
My obliging P.S. (Procurer of Squashes/hubby) brought home a fairly good-sized butternut squash and it seemed like a good time to serve the bow tie pasta dish along with our salmon for dinner. I cut the squash in half and scooped out the insides. Then I cut it in chunks and roasted it with the skin on. That wasn’t such a great idea, in hindsight.
Even after the squash had cooled, it was hard to scrape the insides off and discard the skins. The skins kept falling apart on me and the surface of the squash got rubbery and I said quite a few unladylike words. I would stick to the wiser idea of peeling, then roasting. Or roasting it in halv es. Lesson learned.
I ended up with about two cups of roasted squash and mashed it with the potato masher rather than the blender the recipe called for. It was already very soft; the blender wasn’t necessary. I set aside a cup for the pasta and refrigerated the other cup to make soup another day.
I melted the butter in a large skillet and made the roux with flour. I cooked it a few minutes and added the milk, a little at a time. I stirred it until it thickened. In the meantime I had a pot of boiling salted water ready and put in the box of bow ties and set the timer for the al dente time listed on the box, minus 2 minutes. I learned that trick from Mario Batali. He advises the companies’ versions of al dente are not correct, so subtract two minutes so that you can stir the pasta into the pan of sauce and it can absorb it and still be al dente.
Which is what I did. I reserved a few cups of the pasta water as I drained it as well, in case I needed to add more to my sauce. Again, Mario says so. My sauce was plenty wet and the pasta absorbed much of it but I didn’t need to add more water.
Once the pasta and sauce were combined and bubbling away, I stirred in the cheese. The recipe has it thrown on the top of the dish before it’s put in the oven, but I wanted it all over among the bow ties. I stirred it well and then stirred in the fresh sage leaves I’d cut in a chiffonade. We’d debated on the necessity of going to the grocery to get real sage instead of using the dried sage we had in our spice cupboard. I’m glad we decided to go real; it was a nice touch.
I then poured the combined pasta dish into a buttered casserole and put it into the oven. I baked the pasta for about 20 minutes, when the top was just beginning to get brown. I pulled it from the oven and let it set up while I quickly seared my salmon steaks that had been marinating in a bourbon sauce. I plated the salmon and pasta and dinner was very memorable. The pasta was excellent: rich and creamy and cheesy in a satisfying way. The hint of cinnamon and nutmeg in it gave it a nice seasoning and I’d also added some pinches of cayenne that always add that little kick that makes a dish more interesting.
The picture doesn’t haunt me anymore, now that I’ve tried butternut bow tie pasta. The dish was all that I’d hoped it would be, and will become a regular dish for us in the fall when squash is in season. It was certainly quickly made, once I learned that one should peel squash before roasting for easier handling!
adapted from Taste and Tell
1 (2 lb) butternut squash, halved, seeds removed (I used about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 (12 oz) box bowtie pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
5-6 sage leaves, sliced finely
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400F.
Place the squash halves on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on the baking sheet and roast until tender, about one hour. Remove and let cool.
Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and process until smooth in a food processor or mash with a potato masher. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente; drain and return to the pot. You want it almost crunchy still; it is going to absorb sauce in the skillet and again in the oven. My bow ties stayed nice and firm even after baking.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Add in the squash puree, nutmeg, cinnamon and sage leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the pasta into the skillet with the sauce and stir to coat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to absorb into the pasta, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add more pasta water if it gets too dry. I then stirred in the cheeses but you could transfer the mixture to a baking dish and top with both cheeses if you prefer. Bake until the cheese is slightly browned and bubbly, about 10-15 minutes. I baked it about 25 minutes.