The recipe for this pasta dish appeared on the Food Page earlier this week. This morning, I prepared it. If only I would demonstrate more patience as a cook, things would no doubt go more smoothly.
This dish has much to recommend it, so I’ll share the process. It is mostly healthy and the colors are beautiful. Only a sprinkling of bacon and a healthy dose of vitamin rich winter squash.
I cooked the 2 oz. bacon, drained, blotted and chopped or crumbled it earlier in the day, saving only a whisper of bacon grease.
In a good sized skillet I heated 2 tablespoons of oil to the bit of bacon grease, about a teaspoon, and added the pieces of Kabocha squash, ½ small onion, chopped and 1 large clove of garlic. This was seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper with a pinch of dry sage. I cooked it for 5-8 minutes until the onions were soft and the garlic just beginning to brown.
Kabocha squash is not easy to cut and peel. Mine was small and it yielded the required 1 pound of squash pieces. If using a larger squash or a butternut squash you may wish to buy squash from the refrigerator counter that has already been cleaned and peeled and cubed.
Next I added 1 cup of chicken broth to the skillet and brought it to boil. Then I turned down the heat and simmered the squash and liquid for about 15 minutes. This reduced the liquid. I used an immersion blender to puree the mixture. You could mash and whisk or use a blender.
I used pasta that cooked quickly in a large pot of boiling salted water. I wanted to save up to a cup of pasta cooking liquid.
Lately it seems I’ve been reading about how to properly drain pasta that you expect to add directly to the sauce, in this case the squash puree. One is advised to use a strainer and dip the noodles using the strainer from the water to the skillet filled with sauce. I got into some trouble here because I at first did find the right size strainer, and simply wasn’t thinking straight. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? After sopping up my water mess and trying to save more pasta water, I finally was ready to proceed.
It is hard to say how much pasta water I added, at least a cup, probably more. I had too much water and so cooked the whole shebang a bit more and let it sit for a few minutes to allow some liquid to be absorbed by the noodles.
To the pasta and puree I added the cheese, more seasoning and the chopped bacon. I was using Bella Vitano Gold, a hard cheese I like very much because the store did not have the Pecorino the recipe requested/suggested. When tasting, (Emeril Lagasse says this is a must!), I discovered the dish was not as flavorful as I had expected. Probably, the Pecorino cheese would have been at least a partial remedy. I added more cheese, more salt and pepper and a shake of cayenne. Be careful. My dish was just on the edge of too much heat.
This dish is colorful. And I think very appealing. It is a dish that needs seasoning at every step. 1 tablespoon of fresh sage, finely chopped would add flavor. I may have not used enough of the dried sage I had on hand. But too much sage can be too much. If possible I advise trying the fresh sage.
In this case, left-overs are a good thing. It was more flavorful on the second day.