Quite a few months ago, I happened to be walking through the Italian section of some store…could have been Target, or my favorite grocery store, Wegmans… I just don’t remember… but a jar of Butternut squash sauce caught my eye. “Interesting”…I thought. What would one put that on? Spaghetti? I know I’ve seen butternut squash ravioli…maybe that was the sauce that went with the ravioli. I admit, at first I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that particular combination. I mean, I love them both… but separately. The problem was that I was thinking of butternut squash in the usual way I prepare it, with maple syrup and brown sugar. It just didn’t fit with pasta in my mind. But then, I started thinking savory rather than sweet, along with the thought of fresh sage and spicy Italian sausage…I have to say… my interest piqued.
To be honest, I didn’t buy the jar of sauce that day, but I did tuck the sauce idea away in the recipe file in my mind…and…. I started playing with the recipe. Something tells me that the jarred sauce that I saw was a healthy version… I have to say that this recipe is at the other end of the spectrum…
It was about a month or so ago, and I think I was on my second go round with the sauce when my son Michael walked into the kitchen…
“What’s for supper?” …he asks.
“Pasta BNS”.. I answer.
“What’s that?” …he asks.
“Pasta with Butternut squash” ….I answer
“Oh, I thought you were attempting to speak French. I’m not eating that. Do you have a frozen pizza in the freezer?”..
Honestly… I swear that kid was switched at birth. With a foodie for a mother…I ask you…How can any child of mine be so fussy? I could go through the whole “There are starving children in Timbuktu…and blah blah blah…” but it falls on deaf ears. Reality is, while I’m totally annoyed when he won’t try something new or different, I’m still going to feed him. He’s my son… and I love the little jerk (said lovingly <3)…. I hope that someday he realizes what he’s been missing all along… I didn’t have a pizza in the freezer, so the boy ate cereal that night. Thank goodness for Apple Jacks. I should own stock in that company. (I should mention that “the boy” is 18 years old, and almost a foot taller than me…)..
Getting back to the recipe…I really think the beauty of this, is that it is perfect for Fall, when fresh butternut squash is bountiful, and the flavors of sage and sausage blend with it so perfectly. It’s also really easy…it doesn’t take a lot to throw the sauce together, and I’m also thinking that you could probably use frozen squash in a pinch.
After some discussion about this with my taste testers, I thought about roasting some chunks of butternut squash, and adding them to the dish to bring out more butternut flavor… but in the end, decided against it, although I think I would try it sometime. I changed up the garlic, and rather than 3 cloves, minced, I’m going to say 4 cloves, roughly chopped. I originally used one 6 oz bag of baby spinach, but upped it to 2 bags.
This recipe calls for Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic (Yes. Seafood. I love it!). If you can’t find that at your local grocery store, then any kind of blackened fish seasoning will do. Please do yourself a favor, and use high quality pasta, you won’t be sorry.
Fettuccine with Butternut, Spinach, and Sausage
Roast the Butternut:
2 butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed
4 tbsp butter
Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable spray. Place the four halves of squash on the baking sheet, place one tablespoon of butter into each half. Generously salt and pepper the four halves. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about one hour. Remove foil and roast for about ½ hour. Remove the squash from its shells, and place in a blender.
1 pound bulk (or links, casing removed) hot Italian sausage
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ – ½ tsp pepper flakes (your choice in heat)
3 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 tbsp Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic (yes, for real)
1-2 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
2- 6oz bags baby spinach; stems removed
Salt and pepper
1 pound fettuccine
Shaved Asiago cheese for serving
In a large frying pan, brown the sausage; remove with slotted spoon to another dish, reserving grease in the pan. Add the butter and the onions to the pan. Sauté the onions until they are transparent, add the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté for a few minutes more. Add the sausage back to the pan.
To the squash in the blender, add heavy cream (1 cup if you like your sauce thick, 2 cups if you like your sauce thin. I usually add 2 cups, and then another cup of the pasta water (L’acqua di cottura…the cooking water) after I remove the fettuccine from the pot). Add the seafood magic and Asiago cheese. Blend until creamy. Pour over the sausage mixture in the frying pan. Add the sage leaves, salt and pepper to taste, stir until well blended, and let simmer for about ½ hour. Right before you’re ready to serve, add the spinach to the sauce, and fold in just until the spinach wilts. Remove from heat.
While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil, and add the fettuccine. Cook to al-dente according to the directions on the box. Remove the fettuccine from the boiling water with tongs, and place directly into the sauce, stirring until the pasta is completely coated. (Or for presentation, place the fettuccine in a large serving bowl, and ladle the sauce on top). It’s also at this point, if you want your sauce a touch thinner, you’d add the pasta water, I’d say 1/2 cup to 1 cup.
Serve in a large serving bowl with a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper, a chiffonade of fresh sage leaves and shaved Asiago on top.