Monday, November 10, 2014

Butternut Squash Carbonara

Today I am sharing the second recipe that I tried with butternut squash in an attempt to depart from my go-to butternut recipe, Cream of Butternut Soup. When I found this recipe on Pinterest courtesy of Katie at the Kitchen Door, I knew that I wanted to try it. This pasta dish is gorgeous all plated up with it's flavor-packed crowning garnishes: thick-sliced bacon, caramelized onions, and fried sage. This meal was definitely a "Wow!" for me. The slight sweetness of the squash, balanced by the salty bacon, the onions, and the light crispness and flavor of the sage were a lovely balance.

For those of you feeding young-uns, you might just get them to buy into this because they may assimilate the appearance of the butternut-tinted sauce with their beloved boxed mac n' cheese. My kiddos all ate this without complaint. Weeeell, that is until my husband announced that I "tricked" them with a squash-based, rather than a  cream-based sauce. It's healthier, you're welcome. But everyone still cleaned their plate, and my husband, the whistle-blower, (whom for the record, still prefers a cream-based sauce) even got a second helping. Based on these observations, I'm ruling that this dish was not repulsive any one of them. I have resolved that my family is just obligated to give me a hard time because that's their "job" when they catch me sneaking healthy foods into their diet. So there. I win. And whether they want to admit it or not, they win too.

Here's how I conjured up this lovely pasta dish:

To get started, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees and put a pot of salted water on your stove top and heat it to a boil. Once it gets boiling, cook your pasta according to the package directions, then drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

The next step to create this hearty, creamy, fall pasta dish is to slice and roast approximately 2 lbs of butternut squash. I think I had closer to 3 lbs, but it turned out alright because my self-proclaimed, squash-resistant family kept snatching the gorgeously caramelized pieces off of the baking sheet while they were cooling on the counter. You know, because they all "hate" squash so much. Hmmm.

Slice the squash into 1/2 inch thick pieces, then arrange the pieces on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, then stir the pieces around and flip them over to coat. Salt and pepper to taste before you pop the sheet into a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is tender and begins to caramelize. Here's my squash all ready for the oven.

Now while that squash bakes, go ahead and chop up 1/2 lb. of bacon. I love bacon. I've said it before and I'll say it again, BACON IS MEAT CANDY! So good! And so perfect in this recipe. I like thick-sliced bacon for this recipe. I'm a big fan of Indiana Kitchen bacon. You can visit their website to see if it's available in your area and check out some of their recipes.

Fry up the bacon until nice and crispy, then move it to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in your skillet, then toss in a small, thinly-sliced onion.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are thoroughly caramelized and slightly crispy.

By the time you finish with the bacon and onions, your squash should be just about ready. Look at the gorgeous color on this squash! Move the squash into a bowl if you are using an immersion blender or place in your standard kitchen blender.

Add 1/4 cup of half and half and a cup of the pasta water to the squash. 

Blend until smooth. I used my immersion blender. I ALWAYS use my immersion blender. I love that I don't have to take apart a blender and wash all the parts. With the immersion blender, I just pop the stick off of the motor and give it a quick wash. It's also perfect for making cream soups, sauces, salad dressings, and smoothies. If you don't have one, put it on your Christmas list!

Be sure to salt and pepper the mixture to taste. If you're feeling especially adventurous, go ahead and put a dash of nutmeg in there too.

Next, toss the sauce with the fettuccine and keep everything warm. I did this step in the skillet that I used to fry the bacon and caramelize the onion. Less dishes to wash and there was the added benefit that I picked up any of the delicious drippings left in the skillet from the bacon and onions.

Before plating the pasta, melt a tablespoon of butter in a small skillet, and then fry the sage for a couple of minutes until it gets nice n' crispy. Fried. Sage. Who even thought of this?! Atop the pasta, it was light and perfectly crisp and added a lovely, subtle flavor to the dish. Cheers for fried sage!

And here's the finished product. For you lovers of all things butternut, make this one! I just know you will love it. And for those of you "on the fence" about butternut squash? Go ahead, give it a whirl. This recipe may just make a believer out of you. Enjoy!
Butternut Squash Carbonara with Caramelized Onions and Fried Sage
adapted from Katie at the Kitchen Door original recipe found HERE
1 small butternut squash, about 2 lbs.
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 lb.  thick-sliced bacon, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
1 lb. fettuccine
1/4 c. half and half
1 tablespoon butter
1 small bunch sage
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Peel the butternut squash and cut into slices that are half an inch thick. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip slices with a spatula to coat with the oil. Roast until fork tender and slightly caramelized, about 20-25 minutes, checking and flipping after 10 minutes. When tender, remove from oven and place in a blender. Set aside.
  2. Heat a skillet and add the chopped bacon. Cook until crispy, stirring frequently. Once cooked, set aside on a paper-towel lined plate. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the grease. Heat the grease over medium-low heat, then add the sliced onions to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until thoroughly caramelized and slightly crispy, about 15 minutes.
  3. While the onions are cooking, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the fettuccine according to package directions and drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Blend the cup of pasta water with the squash and the 1/4 c. half and half until very smooth. Toss the squash puree with the fettuccine.
  4. Just before serving, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small frying pan. Fry the sage leaves in the butter until crispy, about 2 minutes. To assemble, divide the pasta between the serving plates, and top generously with the bacon, caramelized onions, and fried sage. Serve immediately.

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