2 ½ pounds butternut squash
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper - to taste Grated nutmeg, fresh is best - to taste
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
20 whole sage leaves
½ cup pecans, chopped coarsely
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-pound sweet Italian sausage
1 pound penne pasta (or substitute any fusilli or other curly pasta)
¼ cup freshly grated Asiago cheese, plus extra for the table
Prepare the Squash & Pecans
Whether the night before or night of, start by preheating your oven to 400Â°F. While the oven is heating, peel and cut the squash into 1-inch diced cubes. Toss them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet and arrange them to a single layer.
Season them with a little salt & pepper, to taste, nutmeg and bake for 30 minutes until they are tender. Top with chopped sage, toss and reserve.
While the squash is baking, arrange the pecans on a pie plate into a single layer and bake for about 4 minutes until toasted. When done, reserve for later.
Get the Water Boiling
Heat a large stock (soup, pasta) pot of water seasoned with a little salt until boiling. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. If you new to cooking and are unfamiliar with this term, al dente, it's important you learn it. You are going to see it over and over in most pasta and risotto recipes.
Prepare the Sage Butter & Sausage
While the pasta is cooking, preheat a large fry (sautÃ©, skillet) pan and add the butter until it melts. Don't let it burn so adjust your heat appropriately. Add the sage leaves and cook over medium heat, turning once until the leaves are crisp. This should take just a couple of minutes so keep your eye on them.
Transfer the leaves to a plate and pour the sage butter into a bowl. Reserve the sage leaves and butter for assembling the dish. I guess you could do all this the night before but I'm not sure how the leaves will hold up or if you can avoid snacking on them all night so best to prepare this the night of.
In the same pan, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and squeeze the sausage meat out of the casing into the pan. With a wooden spoon, break up the sausage into pieces and cook until well browned and no pink is showing. This should take about 7 minutes.
Putting It All Together
When the pasta is perfect, remove a cup of the pasta water and reserve. Drain the rest of the pasta and return it to the pot.
Over moderate heat, add the sausage and reserved melted sage butter. Gradually stir in the reserved pasta water and then fold in the reserved roasted butternut squash cubes.
Add the reserved pecans and Â¼ cup Asiago cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
If you are serving family style, transfer everything to a large serving bowl, top with the crisp sage leaves and serve with some extra Asiago cheese.
If you are plating and serving, portion out the pasta into warm bowls (plates), top with a couple of sage leaves and serve. Be sure there is a little extra Asiago cheese on the table.