Triumph over Butternut Squash, thanks to Mark Bittman

In early September, I drove through Upstate New York to visit my grandparents. On the way home, I spotted a roadside stand filled with gorgeous butternut squash.
Roadside stands are rare these days, especially those of this genre--an "honor code" stand. There is a small box for money, and the squash just sitting there for the taking. The large squash (HUGE in my opinion) were $1 apiece and the small (regular sized) were just 50¢ each. (At Trader Joe's the other day, one of these was $1.99). I scrounged around in my car for change, and bought seven for $3.50.

My first project was a simple roasted squash, cut in half and placed on aluminum foil with a tiny bit of olive oil. I baked them at ~400º (I think, or maybe it was 350?) for ~30-40 min, until they were tender and soft.

I still had 5 squash, and needed another meal. I looked up "Mark Bittman butternut squash" on Google--always trusting my favorite NYTimes food writer.

Unfortunately, I attempted this without a Cuisinart. Butternut squash is hard to chop, so be warned--this took forever! The result was delicious, but grating the squash by hand nearly defeated me....

This pasta is amazing. However, it is sweet, so I served it with salty garlic sauteed chard (and a tarte tatin for dessert!)

Butternut Squash Penne

adapted from Mark Bittman

Mark says: "Some butternut squashes are sweeter than others, and there's no way to predict this by appearance. Since this sauce relies on sweetness for its character, if the squash seems a little bland, add about a teaspoon of sugar. It will brighten the flavor considerably".
  •     Butternut squash (peeled and seeded--start with 1 per pound of pasta)
  •     Salt to taste
  •     Olive oil (~2 tbs.)
  •     Black pepper to taste
  •     1 pound cut pasta (I used penne)
  •     1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
  •     1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  •     1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I left this out to make it vegan, leaving some on the table for those who wanted to sprinkle some on top)
Cut squash into chunks, and place in food processor. Pulse machine on and off until squash looks grated. (Bittman says you can also do this grating by hand....this is way too difficult. Attempt only if you have a lot of time or patience!)

Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Place a large skillet over medium heat, and add the butter or oil. A minute later, add the squash, salt, pepper and about 1/2 cup of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add water, about 1/4 cup at a time, as the mixture dries out, being careful not to make it soupy. When the squash begins to disintegrate, after about 10 or 15 minutes, begin cooking the pasta. While it cooks, season the squash with the nutmeg, sugar if necessary, and additional salt and pepper if needed.

Cook pasta al dente.

Toss pasta with squash. Taste, and adjust the salt, pepper or nutmeg as you like; then, toss with the cheese and serve.

**There is something to be said for good pasta. If you can, go to a specialty foods store and get a pound or two of really good pasta for an amazing upgrade.....

Update: I had a brilliant idea a few weeks ago when I made this. After doing everything as above, I put the pasta in a lasagna pan, covered it with parmesan cheese, and baked it in a 350º oven for 20 minutes or so until the top of the pasta was crunchy.

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