Acorn Squash and Pasta

I didn’t like squash growing up.  This was unfortunate because, growing up on a farm, my parents had a massive garden which produced many many acorn and butternut squash.  It didn’t matter if my mum put butter, brown sugar, or any other lovely toppings on the squash, its presence was resented.  30 odd years later and I’ve come out the other side. Not only do I have a toddler to whom I am reluctant to pass on my food foibles, I have found a recipe which low and behold is very flavourful AND includes squash.  And bacon.

Thekitchn is a great resource for me. It is a wealth of helpful tips, covers food trends, and frequently updates its recipes.  This Penne with Acorn Squash and Pancetta recipe was first published in 2008 and after reviewing the comments, it seems to be a staple in peoples repertoire.  I made a few changes, using sage instead of rosemary, deglazing the pan with white wine instead of broth but all in all I really enjoyed this recipe and will in fact, make acorn squash again soon!

Penne with Acorn Squash and Pancetta

1 acorn squash
1 head of garlic
1/2 lb penne
1/2 lb pancetta, diced (order from your deli counter where they can cut it into 1/4″ slices)
1/2 c white wine
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 c parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 400F.  Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Cut the squash into 1/2″ thick wedges. Toss the wedges in olive oil, spread the wedges out on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.  Slice the top off the head of garlic, exposing the heads of the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap in tin foil and put on the baking sheet along side the squash.  Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then flip the squash over and roast for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove the squash and allow to cool until you can comfortably remove the peel.  You can leave the garlic in the oven to continue cooking (I turned the oven off but left the garlic in). Once you can comfortably handle it, remove the peel from the squash and pull apart or cut the squash into bite sized chunks.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the penne.  Once cooked, reserve 1/2 c of pasta water for use in the sauce when draining the pasta.

In a large frying pan, over medium heat, cook the pancetta until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is crispy. While the pancetta is cooking, remove the garlic cloves from their papery sleeves. I used 4 cloves in the recipe and kept the remainders for another day.  Once the pancetta is cooked, remove it from the pan, setting it aside and pour off the excess fat.  Deglaze the pan with wine making sure to pick up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the sage and garlic, using the back of a spoon to squish the garlic and incorporate it into the sauce.  Return the pancetta and squash to the pan, tossing in the sauce.

Combine the pasta with the pancetta/squash sauce, stirring in the parmesan cheese.  Add the reserved pasta water 1/4c at a time if necessary (I only used 1/4c total)


Pot Roast Weather

It’s -24 degrees outside this morning.  With the windchill, it’s -32.  That’s cold.  Proper cold.  An image and quote keep appearing on my facebook page this winter, originally from Depressed Alien:

I think it pretty accurately sums up how I’m feeling about being in Toronto this winter!

That said, spring is coming.  Wiarton Willie didn’t see his shadow so we should be in the clear 6 weeks from now.  In the meantime, may I suggest a pot roast?

Pot roasts are the gift that keep on giving.  The initial preparation fills your home with a delicious smell and the leftovers will make the rest of your weeknight meals a bit easier to prepare.  This recipe from smittenkitchen is fantastic.  It has five ingredients if you count salt and pepper.  We ate the first iteration over mashed sweet potatoes and the leftovers served over risotto later in the week.

Smitten Kitchen’s Oven Braised Beef with Tomatoes and Garlic (aka my new pot roast foundation recipe)

1 28oz can of tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, still in their papery covers (don’t bother peeling)
1 roast (3ish lb)

Preheat your oven to 300F.  If using whole tomatoes, use a pair of scissors to cut them into chunks (still in the can). Alternately you could be fancy and use a food processor.  I wasn’t fancy and the scissor trick worked just fine (and saved dishes).  Place the roast in a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid. Pour the tomatoes around the roast, adding the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Put the roast in the oven for 3-4 hours.  When finished, fish out the garlic cloves and let cool.  Swish the now roasted garlic out of their no longer papery cover and use below in the mashed sweet potatoes (or spread on bread with a bit of butter and salt)

I strained the leftover juices, discarded the tomatoes and used the garlic in the potatoes below.  I saved the juice for the risotto later in the week.  It also kept the leftover meat nicely moist in the fridge.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes can be a bit wet if mashed on their own.  I boil 2 sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks) with 2 russet potatoes.  This seems to balance out the moisture from the sweet potatoes.

2 sweet potatoes
2 potatoes
garlic cloves from above
2 tbsp butter

Peel the sweet potatoes and potatoes. Cut into evenly sized chunks, place in a pot, cover with water and boil until soft (done when a knife will easily pierce the flesh).  Drain and return to the pot.  Add the soft garlic cloves, 2 tbsp of butter and season with salt.  Using a potato masher, get out all your aggression and mash until smooth.