Sage Pecan Butternut Squash Pasta

Being in California, I have to admit I’m pretty spoiled with the abundance of fresh, cheap produce available year-round. In fact, in an essentially season-less land, the variety of fruit sold at the farmer’s market is pretty much the all I have to differentiate between seasons. (That and rain, which has rather ungraciously decided to desert us for the past few years…)

Ándale, ándale! Get your apples! Very sweet! Ten pounds, five dollars!” Oh, it must be fall.

Usually, we get all our produce from the Sunday farmer’s market, but recently my parents discovered this quaint market about half an hour away from us that sells everything from cactus pears to Acme bread, and cheap too. I’m talking, $0.39 for organic pears, cheap. For weeks my parents told me tales of this darling Filipino market over post-dinner pomegranate peeling and finally, last Saturday, I went.

As it turns out, it was not a Filipino market, but a European grocery store called “Felipe’s Market.” Nonetheless, it was a beautiful sight, all those cardboard boxes piled high with fruit, lined up outside the store, flies buzzing around annoying the shoppers as they thump honeydews for the vibration of a perfectly ripe melon. Beautiful. Of course, we filled our cart to the brim with apples, Canadian sour cream, Israeli couscous, pears (always pears), onions, a cactus pear, and one gem of a butternut squash.

Because I was busy making Birria de Chivo Monday (what else can I do at home alone with a fridge full of food during Thanksgiving break? Oh, college apps? Right…those…), that lucky squash slipped my mind until lunchtime Tuesday when I roasted the diced squash cubes until the edges were charred, crumbled some fried sage and grated some cinnamon Toscano on top, and ate it straight from the foil-lined pan for lunch. It was the highlight of my week. Until I made this pasta.

There are few things that make me happier than cooking with fresh ingredients, but cooking with droopy, unloved ingredients does fill me with a certain satisfaction. I always feel like such a hero–Jennifer Feng, fighting food waste one vegetable at a time in the Feng household. This time, I rescued a limp carrot, the roasted squash, some caramelized onions that had slipped my mind (don’t ask me how it’s possible to have leftover caramelized onions…) and some freezer-burned thyme to make one hearty and comforting lunch. Even with Thanksgiving on Thursday and my determination to save my appetite for the big day, I couldn’t help but fill my plate with seconds. No regrets.

Sage Pecan Butternut Squash Pasta

Inspired by The Traveler’s Lunchbox

Note: If you don’t have leftover roasted squash, you can roast it together with the carrot until the squash is soft and charred in spots. If you don’t have caramelized onions, just slice up half an onion and roast it with the vegetables.

serves 2

1 carrot, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ rounds

1 garlic clove, unpeeled

1 Tablespoons duck fat (or olive oil, I just happened to have some leftover)

4 fresh sage leaves

3 tablespoons caramelized onions

1 1/2 cups of diced roasted butternut squash

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme

salt

6 oz spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions, 2 cups of cooking water reserved

[to finish]

freshly-grated cinnamon Toscano cheese (or any other cheese you like to top your pasta with)

1/4 cup roasted, chopped pecans

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and toss the carrots, garlic clove, and duck fat together in the pan. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the carrots are soft and slightly charred, stirring once in a while. Two minutes before the carrots are ready, throw in the sage.
  2. Peel the garlic and add it to a blender along with the rest of the vegetables, herbs, and 1/2 pasta water. Blend until smooth, adding pasta water as necessary to make a creamy sauce. Add salt to taste.
  3. Spoon the sauce over plates of hot pasta. Top with cheese and pecans before serving. Wash it down with a nice nap.
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