Cavatelli with Spicy Winter Squash
Monday night I got home ready to cook, to find that my wife had already started chopping ingredients for a recipe we’d picked out – Cavatelli with Spicy Winter Squash, another Food and Wine recipe. Bonus!
Although we’d never made it before, this vegetarian recipe seemed like it would be a good break from rich food after a weekend of osso bucco and corned beef. It’s not exactly low-fat – plenty of olive oil and parmesano reggiano – but the flavors are light and, as I tell myself, olive oil is “good fat.” The recipe starts like so many pasta recipes, by sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil and adding crushed red pepper. I like zippy food, and my general rule with crushed red pepper is to add 1.5 times what the recipe calls for. Then we added the butternut squash and fresh thyme from the window garden, cooked for five minutes with the lid off, then five more minutes with the lid on. This produced a truly wonderful texture for the squash – soft but not squishy.
We added the squash/garlic/onion mix to the cooked pasta and cheesed it up. Although the recipe calls for caciocavallo cheese, I already had a brick of fairly nice parmesano reggiano and decided to use that instead. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup of cheese, but like crushed red pepper, parm is another ingredient that I kick up a notch (I remarked when we were eating that I don’t think I’ve ever had a dish with too much parmesan). Parmesan has one of the highest levels of free glutamate in any food, so it can really help impart a savory flavor to your dish. This is especially important in a meat-free dish such as this one. A good brick of parmesan isn’t that cheap, but it will last a long time and will give you flavor that’s worlds above pre-shredded parm. I use a microplane to grate the cheese, and it’s pretty easy to produce a good-sized pile of shredded cheese in only a minute (the microplane can also be used to shred cheese at the table).
This dish was as I’d hoped – a light, easy meal. The umami flavor of the parmesan combined with the zing of the crushed red pepper and the mild winter flavor of the squash worked quite well, and since the recipe uses 1.5 pounds of pasta, there were plenty of leftovers – always a good thing for busy cooks. Once again, I forgot to take pictures – I’m new to food blogging, I guess – but I promise to start giving more visuals in the future. For now, just imagine that the dish came out looking exactly like it did in the magazine (actually, it wasn’t far off):
In case anyone is wondering about purchasing ingredients, my wife and I try to pick out 4-5 recipes per week, then do one big shopping trip on the weekend to get all the ingredients. Planning out meals really isn’t that difficult – we usually spend no more than 15-20 minutes searching for recipes online and making a shopping list. This method ensures that we have all necessary ingredients, and also helps us maintain variety in our meals with respect to ingredients, richness, and flavor. The only drawback to this method is that grocery stores, particularly Whole Foods, tend to be jammed on weekends, although it’s not as bad before about 10:30 AM.
Today for breakfast I made soft-boiled eggs on toast with a little leftover osso buco sauce drizzled on top. It took about 20 minutes start to finish (most of that waiting for the water to boil) and ended up being delicious. This is another reason why I love to cook – repurposing leftovers can provide you with delicious, interesting meals in no time at all.