Monday, January 16, 2012

Pasta with Roasted Squash, Sausage and Pecans

For the longest time, I was avoiding pecan nuts and always using walnuts instead. I somehow, I had this memory of eating some cake or cookies with pecans and they tastes awful. Well, either that was a false memory or whatever I ate was just not good food. When I found this recipe in Food & Wine, my first impulse was also to replace the pecans by walnuts. I can't say now what made me change my mind and buy the pecans. Maybe I just thought it was time to try them again and see if my taste had changed. Before going ahead and using them in the recipe, I decided to try a few. To my surprise, their taste was very similar to walnuts and I liked them a lot. From now on, if a recipe calls for pecans, that's what I'll use. This recipe turned out very nice - both of us liked it a lot. Next time, though, I would cut the squash into smaller pieces - they were too chunky for my taste. As usual, I made a few changes to the recipe. I used dried sage instead of fresh, I was a bit short of squash, so I added some carrots, but the major change was substituting mild Italian sausage for the sweet variety. I must admit that I never actually ate the latter but as a rule, the word "sweet" when it comes to meat dishes, is rather appalling to me. Besides, the squash is very sweet already, so I surely didn't want to add any more sweetness to the dish. I have been noticing in the food blogger community that desserts/cookies/etc. with added saltiness are very much in the fashion. That sounds rather disgusting to me. Not only do most dessert/cookie recipes have way too much sugar for my taste (there's the stereotypical American very-sweet tooth), now the addition of salt makes me avoid those recipes even more. I always thought chocolate covered pretzels and the like are some of the most disgusting snacks to be found in American supermarkets, and now this sweet&salty combination is sneaking into other foods as well. Anyway, there's no accounting for taste - "chacun à son goût" as the French saying goes.

Six months ago: Lentils with Guiso and Egg

1 kg butternut squash, cut into 1" cubes
200 g carrots, cut into 1/4" slices
2 tsp dried crushed sage, divided
2 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
75 g pecans, coarsely chopped
1 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound rotini or other curly pasta
1 tbsp butter
freshly grated Asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss squash, carrots, 2 tbsp oil, 1 tsp sage, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Spread on baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes until veggies are soft. Over medium-low heat, roast the pecans, stirring often, until lightly toasted, about 4-5 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add remaining oil to the pan, turn heat to medium, add sausage meat, and cook until no pink remains, breaking up meat, about 7-8 minutes. In parallel, cook the pasta until al dente, as per directions on the package. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of liquid. Return pasta to pot, add butter and meat, and gradually stir in reserved liquid over moderate heat. Gently fold in veggies and pecans. Serve with the cheese.

(adapted from Food & Wine)


  1. In the case of Italian sausage, sweet and mild are the same thing. It just means that it is not spicy. The "sweetness" comes from the fennel, not sugar, so no worries there.


  2. @ Shawn: The "sweet" variety I saw in the supermarket actually listed glucose syrup as one of the ingredients (!), the mild variety didn't but had some spices like paprika that the sweet variety did not have.

  3. Both pecans and walnuts have their place, and I think either would be good in this recipe. Your pasta looks amazing!

  4. Interesting, I almost always go with hot sausages so the fact that I've never had an overly sweet one doesn't mean they don't exist. I always assumed that it was just different companies using different names for the same product.

  5. I also meant to add that I'm with you that I can't understand why anyone would want a truly sweet Italian sausage.