Monday, April 07, 2008

Linguini with Squash and Cauliflower Sauce

I am a big fan of chef and restaurateur (amongst other things) Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. I caught one of her shows on PBS last Sunday and decided to try one of her recipe. I had never thought to combine squash with pasta, not to mention cauliflower with pasta, but it's a marvelous combination, helped in no small part by the crushed red pepper flakes (peperoncino). The original recipe calls for Fettuccine, but I'm trying to get rid of my chametz, so linguini it was. Quantities tentatively changed from 6 to 4 portions. I also omitted 4 tablespoons of capers.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 plump garlic cloves, crushed, peeled
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 lb butternut squash, cut in 1/2" cubes
1 small cauliflower, cut in small florets (about 1-inch)
1 yablespoon sea salt or kosher salt or to taste, plus more for cooking pasta
1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
1 large can Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
1 pound [dry] fettuccine or bavette
1 cup freshly grated pecorino (or a spinkle of Parmiggiano)


Pour the olive oil into the big skillet and set over medium-high heat. Scatter in the sliced garlic and let it start sizzling. Stir in the onion slices and cook for a couple of minutes to wilt. Spill in all the cut squash and cauliflower pieces, salt and peperoncino on top and with tongs toss all together for a minute or so. Pour a cup of water into the skillet, cover tightly and steam the vegetables for 2 or 3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes along with a cup of water sloshed in the tomato containers. Stir well and cover. When the tomato juices are boiling, adjust the heat to keep them bubbling gently. Cook covered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are softened, uncover and continue cooking to reduce the pan juices to a good consistency for dressing the pasta, about 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste and keep at a low simmer.

While the sauce is cooking, heat the salted pasta cooking water to a rolling boil (at least 6 quarts water and a tablespoon salt) . Drop in the fettuccine or bavette and cook barely al dente. Lift them from the water, drain for a moment, then drop onto the simmering vegetables. Toss and cook all together for a couple of minutes, over moderate heat. Moisten the dish with pasta water if it seems dry; cook rapidly to reduce the juices if they're splashing in the skillet.

When the pasta is perfectly cooked and robed with sauce, turn off the heat. Sprinkle over the grated cheese, toss into the pasta and serve.


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