Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pasta with Winter Squash Sauce, Chorizo, & Greens

Spring in Wisconsin is a fickle beast.
Just last week, we were enjoying gorgeous sunny days with temperatures close to sixty degrees. The breeze was sweet and light, and I was just beginning to get into the mood for serious spring fare like asparagus, fresh peas. Premature, I know, especially since we won't be seeing local asparagus or peas until May or June (and you really can't beat the flavor of fresh local spring produce). But, a girl can hope.

Unfortunately, that little taste of fine weather ended up to be just that... a taste.  And, as of this week, the weather is dreary and drippy and downright COLD.

Maybe it's God's way of preventing me from being tempted by all that organic California asparagus showing up on the shelves at Outpost Natural Foods.  Or maybe it's the last little boost I need to actually make good use of the last of the delicious food I've got stored up in the freezer.  Either way, I'm making peace with the idea that, despite what the calendar may indicate, spring has not quite arrived.

The fact is, I've got the perfect solution to a wet, cold spring day.  It's called winter squash sauce. And I've got a freezer full of it at my disposal.

The concept for this sauce was born nearly five months ago. On a brisk but sunny Saturday last October, we headed off to the market and stocked up on winter squash. I bought a number of fabulous heirloom varieties -- beautiful creamy yellow & green acorn squash, thin-skinned delicata, pimply Galeux d'Eysines, gorgeously hued Queensland Blue squash, and huge old style butternut squash.

We ate quite a bit of the squash roasted simply.  I made gratins, risottos, and wonderful steamy bowls of squash soup.  And then, after we'd eaten our fill of fresh squash, I started freezing squash puree for use in future recipes.  And I decided to get to work on squash sauce -- something I envisioned as not only a stand-in for the standard tomato based sauce, but also a possible base for squash soup. 
I spent a good portion of the late fall and winter tweaking this recipe to get it just the way I wanted it -- sweet (but not TOO sweet), smooth, and complex.  Although it makes use of plenty of savory flavors including celery, onions, and tomato paste, it turns out that a few roasted red peppers were just the thing that ended up taking the sauce to a whole new level.

You could easily make this sauce any time of the year using storage squash or frozen squash puree. But, since it freezes well, it's a recipe to tuck away for one of those industrious autumn weekends when you feel like making best use of all that squash from the market.

Although the sauce is perfectly delicious on its own (or mixed with cream to make a delicious soup), it makes a delicious pasta --  paired with a bit of browned Mexican chorizo, sauteed greens, and cubes of deliciously salty Monterey Jack cheese -- and then baked in the oven until it's bubbly and browned and crisp around the edges.
Perfect comfort food for a rainy spring evening -- or anytime you have the hankering for something warm and nourishing.

Winter Squash Sauce

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  1. I hate to add insult to injury, but I'm over here wearing sandals, making salads, grilling, what not. However, it did rain for 2 days. Does that help? Freezing squash puree is so genius! And hey, pasta is good any time of year. Looks yum.

  2. Oh I love winter squash. I love having it my freezer and I love eating for dinner every day of the week. This sauce sounds perfect for that!

  3. What a wonderful idea. I am bookmarking this one for when we get that glut of squash in the fall because I can't resist buying it.

  4. Man, I wish Jeff would eat squash! I just cooked up a little butternut I had from last fall when I had friends for dinner - and it was so great. Amazing the shelf life on unpreserved things like that when stored in the basement. I was almost seduced by that asparagus too. Must have been that warm weather we had last week...

  5. OMG, this looks like it has some great flavors going on there. I love the greens and cream would be great! I have added it to risotto before, but otherwise seem to just prepare it the same way. Good idea, I would eat it on a sunny afternoon here in Florida!

  6. Tell me about that spring thing. NY is no better. I have come to accept that "srping weather" is a myth and the chilly wet days of March and April are what spring is.

  7. Wow what a delicious dish......It looks like yummmmmmmmmy

  8. A great addition to my collection. Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to try this especially for my family.

  9. great colors and flavors. I think it'd be also fun to bake this in individual dishes.

  10. this looks delicious! i have some pumpkin at home i wasnt sure what to do with it (i usually cube and toast them with garlic and have them in a spinach and halumi salad) but i think this sounds heaps better!


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