Mondays with Molly MacRae’s Characters featuring a Butternut Squash Recipe

Each Monday in September, members of TGIF (Thank Goodness it’s Fiber, a needle and fiber arts group associated with the Weaver’s Cat in Blue Plum, Tennessee) are stopping by Amy’s blog to share recipes and help launch Last Wool and Testament, first book in the Haunted Yarn Shop mystery series out this month from Penguin, by author Molly MacRae. Today, Ruth Wood is visiting. Ruth is director of the Holston Family Homeplace, a living history site just outside Blue Plum.

Molly: Thanks for stopping by Ruth. Did you bring an heirloom recipe from the site?

Ruth: You mean Fatback and Leather Britches?

Molly: Um . . .

Ruth (laughing): No, don’t worry. I brought a delicious vegetarian pasta dish. Perfect for the fall, too, because it uses butternut squash.

Molly: Are you vegetarian?

Ruth: I think I could be, but no. Homer is a devoted carnivore. Now there’s a man who’s perfectly happy eating fatback and salt pork.

Molly: I don’t quite picture that. He’s so . . .

Ruth: Polished? Elegant? Ah, but you don’t know Homer. Deep down he’s a good old Georgia boy. Amy, Molly, thank you for including me in this blog venture. So much fun! You’ll be sure to come see me at the site, won’t you? Bye now!

Talk about elegant. Ruth is elegance personified. Here’s her recipe.

Sautéed Butternut Squash with Garlic and Sage

Serves 4

1 small butternut squash (about 2 ½ pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 medium cloves garlic, slivered (I use more!)

12 large fresh sage leaves, shredded, plus several whole leaves for garnish

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound pasta (I use ¾ pound and prefer campanelli or penne)

Freshly grated Parmesan to taste

  • Bring 4 quarts salted water to boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta.
  • Cut squash in half lengthwise, scrape out seeds and stringy fibers (I clean the seeds and roast them). Save one half of the squash for another recipe (if you’d like a recipe for butternut squash custard, let me know. Gorgeous color and absolutely delicious). Peel the skin from the other half. Cut peeled squash into ½-inch cubes. There should be about 3 cups of cubed squash. Steam squash until tender but not mushy, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Heat oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add garlic and sauté over medium heat until golden brown, about 4 minutes. The garlic should be richly colored but not dark brown or burned. Use a slotted spoon to lift garlic slivers from oil. (Here’s where I have an argument with the cookbook. It says to discard the garlic. Such a waste! I chop it and add it to the finished dish. It gives an extra hit of flavor.)
  • Add steamed squash, shredded sage leaves, salt, and pepper to the pan. Toss to coat squash with oil and butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is heated through, about 3 minutes. Squash should be cooked long enough so that it is just beginning to lose its shape, but not so long that it becomes a mushy puree. Adjust seasoning.
  • While preparing sauce, cook and drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with squash sauce and remaining tablespoon of butter. Mix well. Garnish with whole sage leaves and serve. Pass freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

(Recipe adapted from Pasta e Verdura by Jack Bishop, sadly no longer in print)

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