Friday, January 1, 2010

all pretty satisfied

This dish didn't turn out quite as I'd envisioned it, yet I found myself going back for seconds. That's something, right?

In basic outline, this recipe is similar to the dish of pasta with fennel and cauliflower that I posted recently: you cook some vegetables on the stove (in this case, winter squash and radicchio) while your pasta boils, and toss it all together with a little cheese at the end. Sure, there are some fiddly bits there at the beginning of this one--you have to brown some butter and then saute some pine nuts in it (I started this process later than I'd intended, just after adding the pasta to the boiling water, and oh my word, butter has never taken so long to melt over medium heat) before getting started with the squash. The radicchio goes in at the last minute, just to wilt a bit.

The original recipe, from the January 2009 issue of Gourmet, calls for six whole tablespoons of fat, in the form of butter and olive oil. You are going to be tempted to cut that down, but I have to tell you, if you are going to brown butter and saute pine nuts in it and then remove the pine nuts (along with, unavoidably, a good bit of the butter) from the pan you are going to need to add some more...something to prevent the squash from sticking. You can try tipping in a bit of water, like I did, and that works okay, but the outer layer of the squash may get a little soggy and melty and form a kind of orange goo that will coat the pasta, once you toss it in. Which is not really a bad result, come to think of it.

The recipe gets largely good reviews on, but some cooks mentioned that they found the dish rather bland. Sage was suggested by several to kick up the flavor, but while sage is a classic combination with winter squash I wasn't sure how it would pair with the radicchio. I added some garlic instead. I've really been craving garlicky dishes lately. I guess a cloud of garlicky steam just smells like midwinter to me.

I also added a little half-and-half when I tossed the pasta with the vegetables. (And yes, I realize I've just lost all standing to complain about the amount of fat in the original recipe.) I did this mainly because I had some in the refrigerator, but also because I thought it would tone down the bitterness of the radicchio a bit. The cream is a nice addition, but the truth is the radicchio is still fairly bitter--and that's a good thing. It's a fantastic contrast to the starchiness of the pasta and the sweetness of the squash. (But, then again, I like bitter. I am the only person I know who enjoys Campari and soda. If you do too you should tell me--we could form a club, and drink Campari-and-sodas without anyone else asking us for a taste and then making a face. That would be nice.)

The main reason I cooked this recipe was that I wanted to be part of a totally inspiring project called Gourmet, unbound, in which a bunch of food bloggers are keeping the spirit of that magazine alive by cooking from its archives, month by month. But I think this dish will become part of my regular rotation. When I make it next I'll probably fiddle with it a bit, to try to make it a bit less--well, fiddly. In the meantime, though, we are all pretty satisfied.

Pasta with Winter Squash and Radicchio
Adapted from Butternut Squash and Radicchio Papardelle, Gourmet, January 2009

1 1/2 lb winter squash, untrimmed (the original recipe calls for butternut; I used kabocha)
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 C pine nuts
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 lb pasta (original recipe says pappardelle, which I think would be great--due to poor planning I used regular old spaghetti)
1 large head radicchio (mine was about 6 oz.)
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 C half-and-half
Parmigiano-Reggiano or ricotta salata cheese

Put a pan of water on to boil for the pasta.

Peel and seed the squash. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Peel the garlic. Mince it if that's your preference; otherwise just have your garlic press at the ready.

In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, then continue to cook until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add nuts and cook, stirring, until they are toasty-colored and fragrant, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the nuts and set aside.

Add the squash to the skillet, along with a little bit of water to prevent it from sticking. Add the garlic--either minced or just push it through your press right into the pan. Cook the squash over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and adding a little more water if needed.

When the water boils, put the pasta in to cook. When it is al dente, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, and drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, as the squash and pasta are cooking, quarter, core, and thinly slice the radicchio. When the squash is just tender (after 8 to 10 minutes), add the radicchio, salt, and pepper to the pan and cook, stirring, until the radicchio is wilted and just tender, about 3 minutes.

Add the cream to the vegetables, then add the drained pasta, and a bit of the pasta water if necessary to moisten. Over low heat, toss the pasta with the vegetables until heated through.

Serve topped with nuts and cheese.

About 4 servings.


Penelope said...

You are going to keep me fed all winter. Keep posting! Post post post!

S. said...

Excellent, I'm glad this is helpful. And thanks for the accountability!

Oh, and the best part of this dish? Monkey actually ate it. Sure, she left the radicchio behind, but she scarfed everything else. And asked for more later on. I think your monkey is a more adventurous eater than mine so I'd be curious to know what the verdict is if you give it a whirl.

Laurie said...

I just wanted to let you know that I also like campari and soda. It is the perfect summer drink, imo.

S. said...

So there are two of us, then--fantastic!