Regular readers know I’m all about using what we grow here, in season. Fortunately, some foods stay seasonal months after you’d think possible, such as the butternut squash that I picked in early November and kept in a cool room for winter, preserving it for our use last night. For dinner we ate roasted butternut squash, beets, onions, leeks, and shittake mushrooms served with Italian sausage and a sprinkling of goat cheese over a bed of whole-wheat fusilli pasta, cooked al dente. The roasted butternut squash and goat cheese almost melted in the pasta to create a creamy, chunky, buttery sauce. The beets provided glorious color and a caramelized sweetness. Fresh herbs and Italian sausage rounded out the dish. As always, we went organic with everything we could–in this case, everything.
Here’s what we used; you could change quantities to fit what you have on hand.
- 2-3 large freshly dug beets, rough parts peeled off and quartered
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1-2 leek bottoms, cleaned (sliced lengthwise) and sliced across the grain
- optional: 1 small, sweet onion, quartered and sliced (if you don’t have leeks)
- 1 teaspoon or so finely chopped or dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano but probably not basil for this dish)
- olive oil
- optional: splash of balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup or more of shittake mushroom tops, halved and then sliced (other mushrooms will work too, but you may want to alter the roasting time)
- 1/3 pound Italian sausage
- 1 sweet or hot Italian pepper (ours came from our garden by way of the freezer), sliced
- optional: red pepper flakes
- 3/4 – 1 dry cup whole-wheat fusilli pasta (or other hearty curly pasta that will retain its character in the face of other flavors)
Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F. (You could go to 400 degrees F, but only if you are using more, smaller beets, and then you’ll need to reduce total roast time to 20 minutes.) Lightly coat the bottom of a heavy pan with olive oil and butter. (I used cast iron–big surprise, right?) Spread on your beets, squash, leeks and onions, toss them with the herbs, a little more olive oil, salt and pepper, and, if desired, the balsamic vinegar. (You can also save this ingredient for later or leave it out altogether.) Roast these vegetables for 20 minutes and then add the shittake mushrooms and roast for 10 more minutes. Meanwhile, brown the Italian sausage and crumble or slice it and then keep it warm with the red pepper slices. Pump up the heat with red pepper flakes if you want more spice. As the sausage and peppers cook, prepare the pasta in boiling water. Everything should be ready at about the same time–approximately 35 minutes after you started prepping the vegetables. Put the drained fusilli in bowls and then add the sausage with peppers and the roasted vegetables, tossed with balsamic vinegar if you didn’t use it earlier. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top. As you eat, the goat cheese and butternut squash will start to meld with the pasta.
Vegetarian option: substitute seasonal beans or seasoned garbanzo beans for the sausage!
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