If you stop by your farmers’ market this morning, pick up a cauliflower and a butternut squash, as well as some parsley, and make this dish for supper. When we think of Italian food, we might not think of dishes like this, but it is a traditional Italian dish from Naples. It makes use of the best of the market this time of year, pairing creamy butternut squash (which melts into the sauce just at the end of preparation) with the marvelous texture of well-cooked cauliflower. At first I thought long ribbons of fettuccine were a counterintuitive pasta for this dish, but they are the perfect noodle to absorb this lush and hearty sauce.
Besides the cauliflower and squash, everything else in the dish is a pantry staple. The list of ingredients below is long, but when you parse it, you see that at least the process is not that fussy. All the vegetables and most of the seasonings go right in at the beginning, with only the pasta to cook at that point, and parsley and cheese to add at the end. If you cut up your squash and cauliflower beforehand, it makes an eminently doable weeknight dinner. For a dinner with meat, I would just fry some nice Italian sausages to serve after. But the dish is so hearty—I radically increased the amount of vegetables from the original recipe—that it’s not really necessary. Seriously, look at that giant measure of vegetables, below! It’s so virtuous that you can probably excuse all manner of sins for the rest of the week.
Fettuccine w butternut squash + cauliflower
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich, Lidia’s Italy, which is a great cookbook
- 4 cups cauliflower, cut into florets and quartered
- 4 cups cubed butternut squash
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed with peel removed
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 5 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 cups of tomatoes from a can of whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, cut up
- 1 cup vegetable broth or water
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
- 1 lb. fettuccine
1. In a large sauteuse or skillet with a lid, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until you can smell it, then add onion slices, and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Ad squash and cauliflower, capers, salt, and crushed pepper. Toss and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water, add the lid, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan to prevent the vegetables (particularly the squash) from sticking.
2. Add the cut-up tomatoes, plus the vegetable stock, if using, or water. Stir and cover the pan again. When the mixture comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to maintain the simmer, about medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes. Test a large piece of squash to be sure it is softened, then uncover and continue cooking until the juice in the pan is very thick and will coat the pasta well, about 5 to 8 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt as necessary, and keep it at a low simmer.
3. Place a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil. Add the fettuccine and cook barely to al dente doneness. Remove a cup of pasta cooking water from the pan, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce (if that pan is not large enough, pour the sauce into the empty but hot pasta cooking pan and add the pasta back to it). Over medium heat, warm the entire mixture, tossing it well. The squash will break up a bit to help coat the pasta. If it seems dry, add a bit of the pasta cooking water. If the mixture seems to wet, cook it a bit more to reduce the juices. Then turn off the heat, toss with parsley and grated cheese, and serve in large, warmed bowls.