Coming back to the city after an awesome episode of traveling is always an adjustment. I came back from mild and breezy Iceland earlier this summer and stepped right into the searing heat of New York City. Despite the humid and claustrophobic subway platforms and the distinctive sidewalk scent of garbage day in July, there is a lot to revel in with city summers. Street fairs fill the streets with the scent of grilled lamb gyros, fruit crepes, and buttery funnel cake. Picnic blankets outnumber patches of green in Central Park. Coney Island lights up with beach-side movies on huge inflatable screens, and free concerts play weekly in parks all throughout every borough. You experience the rare glory of drinking your bottomless mimosa brunch at an outside alphabet city table.
My graduate classes were pretty brutal last semester, and with only one less-than-demanding online summer class to fill my July and August time, I got myself back to cooking again. I was desperately craving a hearty bowl of starchy pasta this week. Something about the exhausting nature of the heat and hustle was exacerbating my need for comfort food. I’m a fairly healthy eater, but pasta is my true vice. I’ve tried the whole wheat version, for argument sake, and always come back to the chewy, rich bite of regular white pasta. In this dinner, I make marginal amends for this with a power-punch of healthy butternut squash and fresh tomatoes. Whether or not I squash those benefits with copious amounts of white wine is up for debate. Sue me, it’s hot out.
Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
-1 box of Orecchiette pasta
-1 small ripe butternut squash
-1 pint fresh grape or cherry tomatoes, cut into thin slices.
-Nutmeg, sea salt, dash of sage, maple seasoning (garlic powder, maple sugar, pepper—if available).
-2 tablespoons minced garlic
-1/2 cup chicken stock
-Juice from 1 lemon
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-Fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
Set the water for your pasta over high heat to boil, salting generously, and allow the pasta to cook while you prepare the rest of the dish. As soon as it finishes, drain, cover with a lid, and set aside.
Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1-inch cubes with a large knife. In a very large frying pan, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and place over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add all the butternut squash and season generously with all seasonings, tossing to ensure that all sides are coated. Add a little water to the pan and cover with a lid. Roast the squash for about 15 minutes, stirring and tossing frequently, until it is very tender and flavorful.
Remove all squash from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil and place back over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and spread it evenly over the pan. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add the sliced grape tomatoes and spread evenly. Squish the tomatoes several times with a potato masher or fork so that all the juices release into the pan. Add salt and the lemon juice and allow to cook for several minutes, until a pinkish film develops.
Once the tomato mixture is cooked, remove tomatoes and set aside, leaving a small amount of juice/sauce in the pan. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half. Add the heavy cream and stir, cooking for several minutes. Add the pasta, butternut squash, and tomatoes back into the same pan (including all juices gathered under the tomatoes). Stir well to coat all pasta with the sauce and toppings, and cook for another minute or two until everything is hot. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top just before serving.
Enjoy the sweet and savory combination of squash, tomatoes and lemon, and the light creaminess of the sauce. Don’t skimp on the cheese, it’ll pair better with the glass of wine you should already be halfway through.