Cookie and I have been visiting the vet three times a week lately. We don’t mind the excursion. The girls behind the desk are fun to be around and Cookie loves the attention. She has quickly become a staff favorite (of course!). It’s also a prime spot for people watching. I always feel like I’m experiencing that 101 Dalmations scene where all of the dogs match their owners, remember that one?
The manly men bring in their 80-pound manly-man breeds who shake their heads like lions. Eccentrically dressed older ladies wait with their dachshunds and shaggy little dogs. A beautiful, elegant blond woman picks up her equally elegant and blond mystery breed. The lady with a high-pitched voice and nervous laugh tells me about her rat terrier. I suppose Cookie and I match, too. I will shamelessly admit that we both have great hair and it doesn’t hurt that I’m always dressed in black or gray.
During the more dull moments, I’ve spent a fair amount of time flipping through Instagram photos and glancing at the heart worm brochures on the side table. I grabbed the February issue of Bon Appetit before I left for our last appointment so I would have something to read while I waited. I’m glad I did, because I was reminded of the butternut squash carbonara that I had dog-eared earlier.
Their recipe called for pancetta and chicken broth, but I knew I could easily make it vegetarian and amp up the flavor with spices. The cooking technique is what really caught my eye—basically, you make a butternut purée while you cook pasta, then marry the two together in a warm pan with the help of some starchy reserved pasta cooking water. Genius, right? It’s even easier to make than the béchamel that I made for my pumpkin fettuccine alfredo.
The best part is that the puréed squash is rich and luxuriously creamy without any cream at all. I also used whole grain pasta, which further prevented the steamroller after-effects of eating a giant bowl of creamy carbs. Make this before the weather warms up! We have a few more weeks to go before everything turns green again.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
- 2 pound butternut or kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes (up to ¼ teaspoon for spicier pasta sauce)
- Sea salt and/or kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 12 ounces whole grain linguine or fettucine
- Optional additional garnishes: shaved Parmesan or Pecorino and/or smoked salt
- Heat oil in a large (read: 12 inch) skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the sage and toss to coat. Let the sage get crispy before transferring it to a small bowl. Sprinkle it lightly with sea salt and set the bowl aside.
- Add squash, onion, garlic and red pepper flakes to skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
- Once the squash mixture is done cooking, remove it from heat and let it cool slightly. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender. Reserve the skillet. Purée the mixture until smooth (beware of hot steam escaping from the top of the blender), then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine pasta, squash purée and ¼ cup cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
- Serve pasta topped with fried sage, more black pepper and shaved Parmesan/Pecorino and/or smoked salt, if desired.
- Adapted from Bon Appetit's Winter Squash Carbonara with Pancetta and Sage (February 2014).
- Recipe yields 4 large servings.
- The squash purée is a killer bisque, which you could thin with vegetable broth if you’d like. You could also stir it into risotto at the end of cooking.
- Make it vegan: skip the cheese garnish.
- Make it gluten-free: use gluten-free pasta. Commenter Jenn recommends corn and quinoa blended gluten-free pasta, which is firmer than brown rice pasta.
P.s. I’m late in telling you that Foodie’s latest app, Dinner For Two, is now available for download (for free!) here.