I made this sauce in my head on the way home from work last night. I was feeling sick as a dog and I knew there was nothing in the refrigerator that I could reasonably disguise as dinner. Takeout could be an option, but salty, greasy food is not exactly a good choice when one is under the weather.
It was the pantry to the rescue. I knew I had some beautiful pappardelle pasta, some canned chickpeas, and a bag of frozen butternut squash cubes that I had picked up at the supermarket some weeks back. The idea of marrying the pasta and the chickpeas with a silken butternut sauce got me so excited, I almost felt better again.
I am a great believer in keeping frozen vegetables on hand: as much as I love fresh veggies and the peeling and scraping and dicing that accompanies them (honest, I do), I am not above grabbing convenience when I can get it. And there are plenty of studies that show that frozen veggies actually preserve nutrients better than fresh ones do because they are usually frozen right after picking. Fresh veggies, on the other hand, sit in trucks and supermarket shelves and then your refrigerator, leaching nutrients until you get around to them. The frozen stuff is also a busy cook’s best friend because you don’t have to worry it’ll spoil on you before you have a chance to cook it.
I knew that I wouldn’t have to spend the evening slaving over the stove for this pasta. Frozen butternut squash cooks in a hurry and in no time at all I was blending it with some garlic, onions, and sage. Sage, incidentally, is the perfect herb to pair with butternut. The smoky savoriness of the sage is just perfect with the nutty sweetness of the squash. If you’ve never paired them before, try it. You’ll be a changed person.
So here’s the recipe for my Pappardelle with Butternut Squash Sauce. It goes from start to done in under 30 minutes. I mixed in some avocado for more veggie power and buttery flavor, sprinkled on some nutty sunflower seeds, and mixed in a few crunchy capers for a salty, tangy hit. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
Pappardelle with Butternut Squash Sauce
(Makes 8-10 servings)
1 pound pappardelle pasta (can use linguine or even smaller pastas like farfalle). Cook the pasta in salted water according to package instructions until al dente.
1 28-oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 20-ounce bag of frozen butternut squash cubes (use fresh, if you prefer. This would roughly equal one medium butternut squash. Your cook time could be a little longer).
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp crumbled dry sage
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1 tsp olive oil and some extra virgin olive oil for sprinkling
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 avocados, finely diced
2 heaped tablespoons of capers
Heat the oil in a saucepan and when it shimmers, add the onions and saute until they start to soften and brown a little, about five minutes.
Add the garlic, red pepper, black pepper and sage and stir to mix. Saute for another minute or two until the raw garlic smell disappears.
Add the cubes of butternut squash and cook, stirring, until the squash is really soft and breaks down.
Add salt to taste, let the mixture cool a little, then place in a blender with enough water to make a smooth puree (about 1 cup).
Blend the butternut squash into a silken puree.
Transfer the puree back to the saucepan and heat through.
Add the pasta, chickpeas, lemon juice, sunflower seeds and capers and toss together. Serve sprinkled with some diced avocado and a few drops of extra virgin olive oil.
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