Sunday, November 3, 2013

merrill stubbs' pasta al forno with pumpkin and pancetta

In my last post, I mentioned this pasta. After making it, I thought it merited its own post. I've never really made baked pastas before. I think this is because I have taste memories of a few particularly dry, chewy examples. But I saw this recipe on Food52 a few weeks ago and it stuck with me. When I found myself with some extra pumpkin puree after making pumpkin bread earlier in the week, I decided the time had come.

I bought cream, pancetta, pipe rigate, and approximately $20 worth of cheese at Whole Foods then went over to Daniel's place to start cooking. I pressed him into the role of Cheese Grater and he grumbled heavily when he got to the Pecorino Romano, which was a bit old and hard as a rock. I made a few changes to the recipe, using pumpkin puree, substituting sage for thyme and leaving out the tablespoon of ricotta since I didn't want to buy an entire tub for just a spoonful. Everything came together quickly and the dish emerged from the oven burbling and pleasantly crisped on top.

The flavors- squash, gorgonzola, sage, pancetta- were all clear in the dish and the noodles were perfectly cooked. It was seriously rich and I found myself thinking it would have been good with some sort of bitter green. I imagine anyone who loves pumpkin or butternut squash and blue cheese would go crazy for this. I'd also like to try it out with other ingredients- mustard greens and sausage, maybe. Try a version without the gorgonzola, substituting in a little more fontina, maybe add some rosemary. A myriad of possibilities.

Pasta al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta, adapted from this recipe
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup cubed delicata squash
1/4 lb diced pancetta
1/2 lb pipe rigate
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup shredded fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup grated fontina
1/8 cup crumbled gorgonzola
2 teaspoons chopped sage leaves

Heat oven to 400 degrees; roast the peeled and cubed delicata squash with a bit of olive oil for 20 minutes or until browned and easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn the oven to 500.

Boil the pasta for 4 minutes, drain, and run under cool water for a few seconds.

Crisp the pancetta in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove and drain on paper towels, discarding the excess fat.

Stir the cream into the pumpkin puree. Stir in the cheese, the sage, the pancetta, and the delicata squash. Fold the mixture into the pasta and then spread everything evenly in a baking dish. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until the top is browned.

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