By Judith Dunbar Hines
For Sun-Times Media
For many years I owned or managed a series of cooking schools around the country. Friends and acquaintances from the food world often were visiting teachers, sharing their stories, recipes, and techniques. I learned as much from them as the students did.
One special favorite was Lynne Rosetto Kasper, who visited long before she became an NPR Radio personality. An award-winning cooking teacher, she was working on her thoroughly researched book on the foods of Emilia Romano, called The Splendid Table, for which she later, deservedly, won numerous awards.
Amid high enthusiasm, tales of Italian history and delicious yet simple recipes, she taught us all to roast vegetables until they were charred and crisp, sweet and unctuous with extra umami-like flavors. Then we tossed them with pasta, or served them on huge antipasto platters with bread and wine. And she taught us to garnish every meal with boisterous laughter.
When fall approaches, I am eager to get to the market to gather the first butternut squash and the last of the Italian greens and fresh herbs, roast them and make this dish.
You should do the same. Invite your friends and garnish with laughter. Boun appetito (have a good meal)!
SWEET ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH and GREENS with pasta
Serves 4 to 6
3 – 3 ½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite size chunks
1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 – 3 cups chard or other Italian greens, cut into 2” pieces
1/3 cup fresh basil, torn
12 – 16 fresh sage leaves, stems removed and torn
5 large cloves peeled garlic
1/3 cup good virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 tightly packed tablespoon brown sugar
salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 pound farfalle pasta
½ cup half-and-half or sour cream
1 cup Asiago cheese, grated
Place a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a sturdy sheet pan lined with foil into the oven.
In a big bowl, toss together all of the vegetables and spices. Be generous with salt and pepper. Pull hot pan from the oven and place vegetables on it in a single layer. Bake for 25 minutes or until the squash is tender — toss one or two times while it is roasting.
As the squash becomes tender, toss the pasta into the water and cook per package directions until al dente.
Raise oven temp to broil and allow vegetables to caramelize for about 5 minutes – watch carefully – you want it nicely browned but not burnt!
Scrape everything into a large serving bowl, add cooked and drained pasta and the cream. Toss, adding about half the cheese and tasting for salt. Serve immediately with the rest of the cheese sprinkled on top. Garnish with some fresh sage and basil leaves.
Adapted from The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2008)
LOCAL ATTRACTION features the best of regional produce and products and hopes home cooks will do the same.
Judith Dunbar Hines is a cooking teacher, tour guide, writer and culinary consultant in Chicago, find her online at www.judithdunbarhines.com