About a month ago, when I was switching gears from fall to winter, and was about to get the Christmas tree set up, I decided I better do something about that squash sitting in the middle of the dining room table.
It had been there for a couple of weeks, a decidedly decorative mottled grayish green color, lumpy and misshapen in a sculptural kind of way. Domenico had brought it home one day from the Farmer’s market. I’d sent him off with a list of fall veggies including leeks, kale, potatoes and cabbage. And, scribbled at the bottom, ‘decorative gourds.’
You know the ones I meant, right? Those small, bright orange and green mini pumpkins and squashes? But I wasn’t so specific and so this is what he came back with. Which was fine, because even though it wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined, it was certainly pretty enough to act as centerpiece.
But what exactly was this thing? Was it supposed to be just decorative? Or was it edible? I didn’t really give it a thought until it had to make way for a bowl full of pine cones.
Once I started hacking it open, I quickly realized it was edible. A firm, bright orange flesh that – despite it having sat through countless meals in the middle of the dining room table – still had a strong and fresh pumpkiny smell.
So I decided to chop it up and roast it, like I’ve done many times with butternut squash. A bit of oil, some salt, and after about 40 minutes in a high oven it’s completely cooked, and just a bit caramelized at the edges. A handful of chopped hot peppers I throw in for the last ten minutes gives it a spicy kick that balances out the sweetness perfectly.
This time, rather than serve it as a side dish (because there was nothing in the house for it to act as a side dish to) I treated it as a pasta sauce. As I tossed the cubes of squash with the cooked pasta, I added some crumbled robiola, which made everything come together in a deliciously creamy way.
Even though I was very happy to discover that the squash was in fact edible, I have to admit, that I kind of miss looking at it. I love it when centerpieces are not entirely decorative. I don’t think I’m going to have the same luck with those pine cones.
Pasta with Roast Squash
1 pound / 1/2 kilo of pasta
6 cups peeled and cubed squash*
2-3 hot peppers (or else a tsp of hot pepper flakes)
1/2 cup crumbled robiola (or any soft goat/sheep cheese)
*I have no idea what the name of this squash is that I used, but butternut would work fine.
Preheat oven to 200c/ 400f.
Lay cubed squash on two baking sheets and drizzle abundantly with olive oil. Toss to coat well and sprinkle with salt.
Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, rotating the pans at least once. The squash should be a bit browned on the edges, and tender in side.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water.
In a big bowl, mix the pasta and the squash. Add the crumbled cheese a bit at a time, along with a bit of the cooking water, tossing after each addition. You may not need all the water. Just add enough so the the ‘sauce’ seems a bit creamy, and not too dried out.