Here's a simple little fall-time pasta dish with sweet roasted butternut squash and nutty brown butter. It's one of those dishes that makes even a weeknight meal feel special, especially if you splurge for fresh fettuccine noodles and a nice bottle of wine. Serve it with a salad of bitter greens, apples, and walnuts on the side, and dinner is ready.
I think it's worth taking the time to roast the butternut squash for this dish until the cubes are completely soft and caramelized. The silky texture and deep-roasted flavor really make the dish come together. Since spending an hour to roast squash isn't always practical, I either save this recipe for a lazy weekend afternoon or I roast the squash ahead of time for a mid-week meal. You can also roast the squash just until tender, about 15 minutes, and skip the caramelizing.
Other than that, there's really nothing complicated about this dish! Browning the butter and crisping the sage can be done in the time it takes the pasta to cook. A sprinkle of pine nuts and a snowy layer of parmesan on top of each bowl are the final touch.
Make it. Eat it. Love it. Happy Fall, everyone!
Fettuccine with Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Butter & Sage
small butternut squash, about 2 pounds
10 to 15
whole sage leaves, sliced crosswise into very thin ribbons
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 450°F.
Peel the squash, scrape out the seeds, and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss the cubes with a little olive oil and salt, and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 45-60 minutes, stirring the cubes every 15 minutes, until they are tender and beginning to show caramelized brown spots. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta with a generous amount of salt for 7-9 minutes, or according to package instructions. Scoop out 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid before draining, then drain the pasta and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally and cook until the butter has turned caramel-brown and smells nutty, about 5 minutes.
Add the sage leaves to the browned butter and let them fry for a few seconds until crispy. Add the roasted butternut squash, nutmeg, and a half teaspoon of salt to the pan and stir until the squash is evenly coated with butter. Pour in 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid and let this bubble into a thin sauce. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add the cooked pasta, tossing to coat and mix evenly. Remove from heat.
Transfer the pasta into a large serving bowl or individual pasta bowls. Top with the pine nuts and a generous shaving of parmesan cheese.
Shortcut Version: For a quicker weeknight pasta, reduce the roasting time for the squash to 15-20 minutes. The squash will be tender but not caramelized. The squash can also be roasted a few days ahead.
Extra-Creamy Version: When adding the pasta water to the pan, also add 1/4-1/2 cup of cream and a cup of shredded parmesan cheese. Wait for the cheese to melt into a creamy sauce and then add the pasta.
Originally published 10/13/2006.
(Image: Emma Christensen)