prep time: 15 min | cook time: 25 min
makes about 4 servings
- 8 ounces pasta (I use spaghetti or linguine)
- 3.5-ish ounces walnuts (about 1 cup)
- 20 or so sage leaves
- ½ medium butternut squash
- 4 cloves garlic
- 5 Tablespoons butter total, divided
- 2 Tablespoon for squash
- 3 Tablespoons for finishing with pasta
- Olive oil for frying sage
- Parmesan cheese
- Crushed red pepper
- Gather a pot for boiling pasta and a saute pan. Have a heat-safe cup set aside for reserving pasta water – I use a glass liquid measuring cup with handle.
- Peel the squash until the rich orange inside is completely exposed. THIS STEP IS A B*TCH IF YOU DON’T HAVE A GOOD PEELER. The outer skin of a butternut squash can be very tough so it helps to have a good quality peeler. If you are in a pinch, you can slice parts of the outer skin off with a knife but you do lose more squash this way.
- After peeling, scoop the seeds out from the center with a spoon and chop into even 1-inch-ish cubes. Save half of the squash in the fridge to use for another cooking session.
- Peel and mince the garlic.
- Roughly chop walnuts into small pieces. I like the pieces small but substantial enough to still have some bite – bigger than bread crumbs but smaller than granola.
- Heat a pan over medium heat. Add the chopped walnut pieces to the pan and continuously stir until the pieces look toasted and smell nutty, about 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they can burn pretty quickly if you are not careful or leave them without stirring.
- Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.
- Set the heat to medium-high and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin, even layer.
- When pan is sufficiently hot, add the sage leaves and cook for about 15 seconds each side – they will crisp very quickly.
- Remove from heat with tongs and set aside. They will crisp up a bit more while resting.
- Clean the pan out if there is a lot of excess oil, but you don’t have to be super thorough about it.
the mainz: squash and pasta
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the package directs for al dente – it will cook a bit more in the pan later. Before draining, reserve some pasta water to use in the sauce; I don’t measure out exact amounts but just reserve a cupful of water to the side.
- Meanwhile, with the heat set to medium-high, add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan. Stir until butter melts and becomes foamy. Add the squash cubes and let them cook for a couple minutes without stirring so they develop a browned crust. Once the pan-side of the squash cubes looks lightly browned, flip them with tongs or stir them around so the other sides get some fry action and let cook another couple minutes (you don’t have to get each side perfectly browned).
- Reduce heat to low and cover with lid. Cook for about 5-10 more minutes, checking on the squash and stirring occasionally, until it is fork tender.
- When the squash is nearly done and just before you’re ready to add the pasta to the pan, add the minced garlic, crushed red pepper, and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Let simmer over low until garlic is fragrant.
- Add pasta to the pan and toss until evenly coated with butter.
- Slowly add in reserved pasta water bit by bit while stirring until the pasta develops a consistency you like – it should loosen up the pasta and give it a more sauce-like texture but not drown it in liquid.
- Stir in half of the walnuts and half of the crispy sage leaves (it’s okay, even preferable, if the sage crumbles while stirring).
- Salt to taste.
- Plate and top with walnuts, sage, and Parmesan.
wine pairing | A bright white wine. Or maybe a red if that’s what you have on hand. Franzia boxes work too.