Monday, February 14, 2011

Penne with Butternut Squash, Sausage and Kasseri

Happy Valentine's Day! We wish you the happiest and most romantic of days. May all your Valentine's wishes come true. And if they don't, or if, at this point, it's not looking too promising for you, I suggest you go home and make this pasta and forget all about the lover's holiday. Because, although delicious, this pasta has absolutely nothing to do with romance. It has a lot more to do with owning a good vegetable peeler. So if your day wasn't so grand, I recommend going home to hack the heck out of some squash (even if your day was superb, you should still go chop squash. It's very therapeutic).
Then roast it and add it to some moderately spicy (or not so much, if you're pregnant) sausage and tomatoes. And then boil some salty water and cook some pasta and throw it all together with cilantro and cheese. Yes, lots and lots of cheese.
This recipe calls for Kasseri cheese, a firm sheep's cheese, so I'm told. I don't actually know what it tastes like because the store by my house didn't have any, and I was too hungry to hunt down the real stuff. Instead, we used Mizithra cheese, which is a medium-hard sheep's cheese, and very salty (I love salt!). Needless to say, we didn't need to add much salt to the finished product. I'm sure the Kasseri would be lovely in this dish- I'm planning on trying it as soon as I can find some- but you can substitute something else if you prefer. I am also happy to note that this makes loads of pasta, leaving us with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. It's sure to bring you good cheer.

Penne with Butternut Squash, Sausage and Kasseri
Recipe very very loosely adapted from Bon Appetit Jan 2011
Pictures by Caroline

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 5-6 cups, or 32 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound sausage
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with added puree (from 28-ounce can)
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 box (1 lb) penne pasta
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 cup grated kasseri cheese, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Toss squash with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Transfer squash to large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender and brown around edges, using metal spatula to turn occasionally, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and onions; sauté until sausage browns and onions soften, 10-12 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, then broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in squash.
  3. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Pour pasta into a large bowl. Add sausage mixture, half of cilantro, and half of cheese; toss. Add reserved cooking liquid by 1/3 cupfuls to moisten, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and cheese.

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