"Good As It Gets"
By that I mean when you take that first bite you are going to say, "It doesn't get any better than this!"
I love food and there are not many recipes that I prepare that I don't like but every once in a while you come up with one that you can't believe you made. It's just that good and I rate this recipe as one of those.
It's a simple recipe but cannot be categorized as a "Quick & Easy" recipe because it takes time to roast the squash. It becomes a weekday meal if you roast the squash the night before and that's exactly what my wife Meg did. This works especially well if you are roasting something anyway, like a chicken or potatoes.
You can do the same with the pecans that need to bake for a few minutes. Make them the night before and store them in an airtight container.
When I saw this recipe called for 20 whole leaves of sage I thought it was a typo. That's a lot of sage but with it you make a sage butter that is in my opinion what makes this recipe so good. And in the process you crisp the sage leaves.
Let me tell you, crisp sage leave could be packaged and sold as a gourmet treat. Wow! What flavor. You could use just this sage butter as a pasta sauce or even on vegetables. I wonder if anyone has come up with chocolate covered sage leaves? If not, they should.
Penne Pasta with Roasted Squash, Sausage and Pecans Recipe
- 2½ pounds butternut squash
- 3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- fresh nutmeg grated, to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage chopped
- 20 whole sage leaves
- ½ cup pecans chopped coarsely
- 3 tablespoons butter unsalted
- 1- pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 pound penne pasta or substitute any fusilli or other curly pasta
- ¼ cup Asiago cheese freshly grated, plus extra for the table
Prepare the Squash & Pecans
- Whether the night before or night of, start by preheating your oven to 400°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 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 ¼ 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.