Squash is pretty versatile. Oven roasting, a mash, a hearty soup or as part of a risotto? Been there, done that. Using squash as a basis for a pasta sauce? A definite must-try!!
I came across this recipe over at What’s Gaby Cooking, and I immediately felt eager to cook this dish. It looked so simple and really delicious.
What went well and what didn’t:
Right on both accounts! The sauce is easy to make, delicious and the silky smooth sauce coats the pasta well. Damn tasty too, even the kids loved it straight away. Don’t be skimpy with the nutmeg and fresh herbs and seasoning, it will pay off. In any case, the suggestion to make a double batch and freeze half worked brilliantly.
The recipe is straightforward to follow. It didn’t mention how many persons it was intended for, but it serves 4 to 6. We didn’t need much of the reserved cooking liquid to get the consistency we want, so the quantities worked out pretty well.
However, the sequence of the cooking steps of the original recipe was a bit off and likely results in lukewarm food. You needed to cook the pasta first to get the cooking liquid to finish the sauce with. However, the sauce does cool down quite a bit while blending and adding the cream. Especially if you would not have added boiling stock, the sauce needs to be back on the stove to warm through again. Finally, the reheated sauce would be added to (presumably stone-cold) spaghetti immediately before serving.
In practice and given the ratios of the sauce and pasta, it’s easiest to just bung the cooked pasta into the sauce a couple of minutes before serving. Please do note that low heat is essential here. Due to the addition of the cream, the squash sauce should not be brought to a boil again.
The recipe (serves 4-6):
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2½cm / 1″ cubes
- 2 shallots, peeled and halved
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and black pepper
- 750ml / 3 cups (warm) vegetable or chicken stock
- 500g / 1 lb spaghetti
- 125ml / ½ cup heavy cream
- A good pinch of ground nutmeg (to taste)
- Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grated
- Fresh herbs (thyme, basil, chives or parsley)
- Preheat your oven to 220℃/425℉.
- On a large baking tray lined with baking paper, arrange the butternut squash, shallots, garlic and drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Mix until coated.
- Put the baking tray into the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes until the squash is tender when poking a fork in.
- Towards the end of the roasting time, start cooking the pasta until al dente and heat the bring the stock in a separate saucepan to a simmer.
- Drain the pasta and reserve about 125ml / ½ cup of the cooking liquid and transfer the pasta back to the pan to keep warm.
- In the meantime, once the squash is tender, remove the baking tray from the oven and transfer the squash, garlic, shallots and the hot stock into a food processor and blend until smooth. You will likely need to work in 2 batches!
- Add the cream, grated nutmeg and half of the reserved cooking liquid and continue to blend until well combined. Taste and season as needed.
- Transfer the creamy squash sauce to a medium pot and put on a low heat to reheat the sauce and add the cooked pasta in the last couple of minutes.
- Finish by adding the reserved cooking liquid to the sauce until it reaches the consistency you prefer.
- Serve with grated cheese, fresh herbs, and freshly cracked black pepper.
This time I just finished with some chopped fresh thyme, but next time, I will also add plenty of thyme or rosemary sprigs during the oven roasting and perhaps a tiny pinch of cinnamon together with the grated nutmeg. Reserving a few of the roasted squash cubes cut in 4 pieces would give the pasta some more texture.
Verdict: 8/10; Will be made again