In Tuscany, cooks don't have a lot of uses for hard-shelled winter squash. It is typically roasted as a side dish or turned into soup. At our Brooklyn farmer's market in autumn and winter, the stands are filled with a huge variety of squashes, each one more attractive and tasty than the other. In the States, we cook with squash all the time, and the entire family benefits. This pasta balances the somewhat sweet squash with sausage, kale, and Romano cheese. The smooth shape of butternut squash makes it easy to work with, but you can substitute your favorite (such as kabocha).
Wine Makes Everything More Interesting
This pasta is full of strong, earthy flavors, making it a cozy fall meal. Even with its sweetness, the butternut squash still lends a hearty, filling element. To keep this from feeling too heavy, a generous half-cup of dry white wine wakes up all the flavor with its acidity and sharpness. The alcohol cooks off, leaving behind a brightness that prevents all the rich ingredients from becoming dull. If you're keen to leave out the wine, use water with a generous squeeze of lemon instead.
Rigatoni with Winter Squash and Kale (Rigatoni con zucca, salciccia, e cavolo nero)
Serves 4 to 6
small butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for the baking sheet and serving
Freshly ground black pepper
uncooked sweet or spicy Italian sausage (about 2 links), casings removed
(3-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
medium red onion, diced
clove garlic, minced
dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
medium bunch flat-leaf kale (about 7 ounces), tough stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Lightly coat a large rimmed baking sheet with oil.
Peel and seed the squash. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes. Measure out 3 cups cubed squash and transfer to the baking sheet; reserve the remainder for another use. Drizzle the squash with 2 tablespoons of the oil, season with the salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Spread into an even layer.
Roast, stirring halfway through, until the squash is tender and tinged with brown, 25 to 30 minutes total. Keep warm in a turned-off oven with the oven door ajar.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon into bite-sized pieces, until the sausage is browned, about 6 minutes.
Push the sausage and rosemary to one side of the skillet. Add the onion and garlic in the empty space and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring just the onion mixture occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir all the ingredients together and continue cooking to blend the flavors, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to high, stir in the wine, and bring it to a boil. Remove and discard the rosemary sprigs. Stir in the kale and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until the kale is just tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the squash and cover to keep warm.
While the sausage mixture is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the rigatoni and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta well and return to the pot.
Add the sausage mixture and Romano cheese to the rigatoni and mix well, adding enough of the reserved cooking water to make a light sauce. Spoon into individual bowls, top with a drizzle of oil, and serve, with additional Romano passed on the side.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Reprinted with permission from Super Tuscan: Heritage Recipes and Simple Pleasures from Our Kitchen to Your Table by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar, copyright (c) 2017 Touchstone.