I have a friend who always refers to me as "Nigella" and except for the fact that Nigella Lawson's brunette and I'm blond, she's English and I'm American, she has a cooking show and I do not, she's famous and I...well am not, I can see the similarities. I mean we both like to cook, we're both a little on the let's just say "voluptuous" side and heck we're both sexy (according to my husband) so maybe we are more alike than not. Besides, I'll take any comparison to a hot, famous, female chef with a cool, hip accent I can get. So thanks Robin for boosting my ego. grin!
I really do love Nigella, she's always so down to earth and "real" on her show, so I was excited to see her spread in the October Better Homes and Gardens. Her entire meal was fabulous and I plan on preparing each recipe that was featured. I can't wait to make her flourless chocolate lime cake next! I have several friends with gluten allergies, and I know they would love this! But, the recipe that caught my eye first was her Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese! I mean how autumnal can you get?!? Here's the bummer though, I could not find pappardelle anywhere. Geesh, you'd think I lived in the boonies or something..okay so I do. I had to settle for large rigatoni, but the recipe still turned out great. It was such an easy fall recipe, perfect for throwing together on a weeknight. I adapted it a little, but the essence stayed the same. Tis the season for butternut squash, so give this great Nigella inspired recipe a try!
Pasta with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese-adapted from Nigella Lawson
1 large butternut squash, approximately 3 pounds
1 large onion, diced
2 Tbs. regular olive oil
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. marsala cooking wine (can replace with chicken stock)
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste
2/3 cup pine nuts (I used pecans, because I had them on hand gave a sweeter taste)
1 lb. pappardelle or other robust pasta (I could not find pappardelle so I used a large rigatoni)
6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
5 ounces soft blue cheese
Peel and seed the squash, and cut into 1-inch cubes. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven that is large enough to accommodate all ingredients. Add onion to olive oil and cook until golden, add paprika and allow to cook for an additional minute. Add in squash and butter, combining well. Add in the marsala and water. Let mixture come to a gentle boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, put a large saucepan of water on for the pasta, salting when it comes to a boil; cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.
Check squash occasionally you will want it to be tender but still hold it’s shape. Once it's ready, season to taste — go easy with the salt because the blue cheese will add extra saltiness later. In the meantime toast nuts in a dry skillet until golden and remove from heat to cool.
Remove squash from heat and allow to rest until you add pasta. Add most of the finely chopped sage to squash mixture and combine. Reserve some of sage for topping dish. Before draining the pasta remove approximately ½ cup of pasta water. Drain pasta but do not rinse and add to squash mixture. If you find the sauce too dry, or if it all needs a little help coming together, add some of the pasta cooking water — the starch in it encourages the sauce to emulsify, which helps it to cling better to pasta.
Crumble the blue cheese and add into dish with about half of the nuts, then gently combine, before sprinkling the other half of the nuts and the reserved sage on top.