Oh this second week of December is a busy time of year. It always happens this way: the cookie decorating party coincides almost exactly with when I should get all my Christmas cards into the mail. I’m partway there – the freezer’s stocked with two batches of cookie dough, and the living room’s a happy disaster of craft boxes mostly emptied of their contents. It’s a low-stress busy, since I know my across-an-ocean friends won’t mind if their cards show up just the other side of Christmas, and my in-city friends won’t mind if there are scraps of tissue paper on the floor when they come by to ice cookies on Sunday. Nonetheless, these annual ambitions mean I’m more efficient than usual with my time at home, so I take my dinners quick and fast. If that sounds about right for your schedule too right now, consider this recipe for penne with roasted butternut squash, brown butter and sage. It also happens to be one of the most delicious parts of my 2013.
This is one of my favourite winter weeknight dinners. I can do the squash on the weekend when things are more leisurely, so the whole thing comes together in 20 minutes and I can get back to putting my holiday together. There’s something decadent about the startling coziness of nutmeg hitting a simmering pan of butter and sage. And butternut squash? That’s a Canada Food Guide recommended orange vegetable, which will completely complement the chocolates I had at 9am when I got into the office this morning. Cough.
Notes: Want this gluten-free? Skip the pasta and serve the squash over quinoa or brown rice instead. Want this fancied-up? I’ll bet it would make a pretty incredible pizza topping if you bulked it up with some crumbled ricotta or mozzarella. Tell me how it goes!
Penne with Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Butter & Sage
slightly adapted from The Kitchn
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb penne pasta (or what you have)
4 tbsp butter
10-15 whole sage leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup pine nuts, chopped hazelnuts or chopped roasted chestnuts
Parmesan cheese, to serve
salt & pepper
1. In a large bowl, toss the cubes of squash with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and roast for 45-60 minutes at 450 degrees, removing every 15 minutes to rearrange the squash to keep them from burning. This can be done a few days ahead of time; keep them in the fridge in the interim if you do this step ahead.
2. Start cooking your pasta in a pot of boiling water.
3. While the pasta’s cooking, put a large frying pan over medium heat. Let the butter melt in it until it begins to bubble and brown; it’ll start to smell a little bit like nuts. Sprinkle in the sage leaves and let them crisp for 30 seconds. Add the squash, nutmeg, and 1/4-1/2 tsp salt. Stir until everything’s coated in butter. Steal a 1/4 cup water from the boiling pasta, and add that in too. Reduce heat to low until the pasta’s ready; then drain it, and add it too. Stir until evenly combined.
4. Serve immediately in bowls topped with nuts and grated Parmesan cheese.