Saturday, March 15, 2008

A "Sweet" Pasta, with Butternut and Brown-Butter Sauce

It's been a while since I could update the blog. This past week has been busy getting our taxes done. Then when I was finally free, last night and most of today I couldn't use the computer because of the heavy storms in Atlanta, including a tornado downtown last night and a near-tornado in the same place this afternoon. However, I formulated a new dish and tested it this evening.

The idea, but not the dish itself, came from a fairly new pasta restaurant called 'Saba', near us in Emory Village. The dish I had there was pumpkin-stuffed ravoli with a brown butter and herb dressing. The filling was faintly sweet and had a warm spice fragrance. The cheese on top was finely shaved tangy Parmesan. Since homemade ravioli is too much work (that's what restaurants are for), I figured a way to get the same taste effect using egg noodles. What resulted was a mildly sweet, fragrant pasta with butternut and with gorgonzola for a sharp contrast. An alternative cheese would be Italian pecorino Romano.

The recipe serves six as a main course. However, a sweet-tangy pasta dish might be better as a starter course at dinner (as pasta typically is in Italy), or a lunch or supper main course. We had it this evening with a nice Greek salad. If I were doing wine with this one, I'd have a fragrant not too dry red, such as a Merlot or an Italian Sangiovese (from Tuscany), or even a chilled rosé.

Sweet Butternut Pasta with Brown Butter and Gorgonzola Tim

6 tablespoons unsalted butter for the sauce + 2 tablespoons for the butternut
A medium-sized butternut squash (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons candied orange rind, finely minced (or 1/2 teaspoon [packed] grated orange zest)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese, or grated Romano
1 pound curly egg noodles (or Italian egg fetuccini)

Make the brown butter with 6 tablespoons of the butter: Melt it in a small, heavy pan, and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bubbling stops and the solid specks become a caramel tan color. Remove from the heat.

While the butter is cooking, peel, split, and seed the butternut, and cut it in 1/2-inch cubes. Fry it gently in a large pan in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter plus the oil, keeping a lid on the pan, and stirring periodically, until beginning to become tender. Add the wine and continue to simmer, covered, until the squash is fully tender. Add the honey, raisins, orange rind, spices and salt and stir and heat a minute or two. Stir in the brown butter, and take the pan off the heat. Reheat, if necessary, to combine with the pasta. Stir in the cheese before adding to the pasta.

While the butternut is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add a tablespoon of salt. Keep the water hot until the butternut dressing is done, then bring it back to a rapid boil. Add the egg noodles to the boiling water, and stir immediately to keep the pasta from sticking. Boil, stirring frequently, until a piece of pasta is tender when you bite into it. (The time will depend on the pasta used.) Drain in a collander, shake out some, but not all, of the water, and add the pasta to the butternut mixture. Toss the pasta and dressing, including the cheese, together. Taste, and add a little salt, if needed (the cheeses vary in saltiness). Turn the mixture into a pasta dish or shallow bowl to serve.

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