January 24, 2012
Only recently did it occur to me that winter squash could be welcome in a dish of pasta. Before that, I'd always vaguely considered the two ingredients were too similar and might cancel each other out, the same way I wouldn't make a potato sandwich*, for instance.
But then one day, wanting to fix myself a quick bowl of pasta for lunch and hunting down a leftover piece of butternut squash in the vegetable drawer, a light went up (in my brain, not in the fridge) and revealed an entire, unexplored avenue of pasta options.
This sort of pasta dish definitely belongs to the category of winter preparations that soothe and comfort by the softness of their texture and the sweetness of their flavor profile, so to keep it from being altogether too sweet, I keep things zesty with heat and spice.
Hence the use of curry powder: the one I use is a very flavorful, and surprisingly hot one called Kari Gosse**, a secret mix that was developed by an apothecary from Brittany in the early nineteenth century, when ships from the Far East still docked in local ports to unload their treasured spices. Naturally, you should use whichever curry powder you like, but if it doesn't pack a chili pepper punch, I recommend you complement its action with cayenne pepper or a good dash of hot sauce at the end.
As for the pasta, I usually get spelt fusilli at the organic store, but lately (and in the picture above), I've been using local pasta from ICI: L'Epicerie locavore, which are manufactured in Bagnolet, just outside of Paris, with organic flour from Seine-et-Marne. I'm especially fond of their tiny pasta (which they label as risi but I believe are in fact midolline, as they're teardrop- rather than rice-shaped) toasted in the style of fregola sarda.
* Though I know some people who are fond of sandwiches garnished with crushed potato chips and mayonnaise, but that's another story.
** It is available from a few pharmacies and grocery stores in and around Lorient in Brittany, and from the inimitable Epicerie de Bruno in Paris.
Curried Butternut Squash Pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil for cooking
- 1 small yellow onion or large shallot, finely minced
- 400 grams (14 ounces) peeled butternut squash (or other winter squash that keeps its shape when cooked, such as red kuri squash), diced small
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- curry powder, to taste (exact measurement will depend on the potency of your curry powder; if you're unsure, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
- 200 grams (7 ounces) uncooked pasta (I've successfully used toasted risi or fusilli, but any short pasta will do)
- hot sauce (optional, only if your curry powder isn't spicy)
- freshly ground black pepper
- toasted squash seeds or chopped hazelnuts
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook for a few minutes, until softened, stirring frequently to avoid coloring. Add the squash, salt, and curry powder, and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 8-12 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the squash is cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
In the meantime, bring salted water to the boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, until al dente. Five minutes before the pasta's done, scoop out a few tablespoons of the simmering water and pour it into two pasta bowls to preheat.
Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet, stirring to combine. Pour out the water from the bowls, and divide the pasta between them. Sprinkle with hot sauce if needed, pepper, squash seeds, and cheese, and serve immediately.
Spaghetti with Crushed Sardine and Tomato Sauce
Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest