The thing that makes this pasta a little different is the step of pan-frying all the ingredients together. This deepens all the flavors and gives the pasta that slightly crispy, browned taste that you find in Chinese pan-fried noodles. It also is a very hospitable dish; leave out the cheese and you can feed it to your vegan friends.
Overall, this makes a heavenly plate of pasta - and I can hardly take credit for it. The chef at my wedding executed it brilliantly. After the leftovers were gone my new husband was so morose, I really had to recreate it as soon as possible! Fortunately for us it wasn't too difficult and the flavors get even better in the fridge overnight.
Pasta Pan-Fried with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, and Pine Nuts
1 medium butternut squash
1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
1 pound farfalle pasta
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
4 ounces high quality Parmesan, shredded or shaved (about a cup total)
Heat the oven to 375°. Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the strings and seeds the middle cavity. Flip the squash halves upside down and peel them. (Note: The raw squash rind can irritate your hands. If they start to itch or tingle, wear gloves.) Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes. Toss with the onion, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Mince about half of the fresh sage leaves and also toss with the squash.
Spread the squash mixture in a thin layer on a large baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes or until the squash is soft.
Heat salted pasta water to boiling and cook the farfalle until al dente. Drain and set aside. As the squash finishes roasting, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large high-sided sauté pan. The oil is ready when it pops and sputters. (Don't let it start smoking.) Drop in the rest of the sage leaves and fry for about a minute, or until they begin to just shrivel up.
Remove with a slotted spoon and salt lightly. Crush with the back of a spoon.
Add half the pasta to the pan, along with half the roasted squash mixture. Crumble in half the sage. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes or until the pasta is heated through and getting crispy on some of the edges. Add the pine nuts and cook for another minute. Stir in half the cheese and serve.
(Repeat the last step with the rest of the ingredients. We split it into two because none of our pans are big enough to accommodate the entire recipe. It's very important that you not crowd the pan too much - you want the pasta to really pan-fry, not just steam up.)
(Images: Faith Durand)