Take out your pencils and pasta.

This past weekend, I had the ultimate pleasure of catering a day-long writing workshop on writing food memoirs. The organization, Girls Write Now, mentors at-risk, underserved teenage girls who are aspiring writers. They are also the only organization that combines youth mentoring and writing instruction in an all-girl atmosphere. I thought the concept was amazing before attending the workshop on Saturday. Now that I've heard and read writing samples by these creative, talented young women, I can tell you that what they are doing at Girls Write Now is truly special and unique.

The girls had a special workshop planned already, with craft talks given by esteemed chefs and writers, Gabrielle Hamilton, Julie Powell and Cheryl Tan. But given the theme of food writing and the holiday season, I thought they also needed some festive food offerings with interesting flavors and textures to inspire their writing even more. They needed holiday cookies. They needed tea sandwiches. And of course, they needed pasta. I've yet to find an occasion, holiday or menu that couldn't benefit from a hearty pasta dish and Saturday was no exception.

This recipe, courtesy of Chef Scott Conant, combines the flavors of the season with interesting texture and bright colors. The butternut squash lends a certain meatiness to the dish, while the crispy pancetta gives a salty bite to each forkful. Torn sage instantly evokes the smells and flavors of the holidays.

Note: This recipe calls for 3/4 lb. of pasta. Never in my life have I opened a box of pasta without cooking the entire pound. For shame. I cooked the whole box and simply upped the quantities of the remaining ingredients here and there. I encourage you to do the same--second helpings will definitely be served. 

Penne with Roasted Buttnernut Squash, Pancetta and Sage
Serves 4

    • 1 medium (about 2 1/4 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • 3/4 pound penne pasta
  • 3 ounces pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick and finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, flakes
  • 10 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped or torn
  • 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil; season with salt. Transfer to oven and roast until squash is browned and tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt water and return to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set pasta and reserved cooking liquid aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add pancetta and cook until just crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Add shallots, crushed red pepper, and sage. Cook until shallots are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add penne and squash and toss gently, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid as necessary to moisten.
  4. Add cheese and black pepper and cook, tossing gently, until pasta and squash are heated through. Serve immediately with more grated cheese, if desired.

No comments:

Post a Comment