Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Roasted Garlic and Winter Squash Pasta Sauce

My favorite pasta sauce actually started as an enchilada filling. At the time I found this recipe, I was living in Tucson, and a member of the Tucson CSA. The Tucson CSA is the most awesome CSA ever, in case you were wondering. Since leaving Tucson 18 months ago, I’ve used two different CSA companies and been thoroughly disappointed. Not because there was anything wrong with either farm, but simply because it wasn’t even close to the same.

Anywho, back on topic now. The Tucson CSA site has a million different recipes for using their vegetables. Literally, like one million recipes. Check it out. You can find something for just about every vegetable on the planet. They also have a cooking greens users guide, so you can learn how to make any type of cooking greens taste good (cause you know they need help!).

During a time of winter squash abundance, I attempted to make Roasted Squash and Garlic Enchiladas. They were all right, but not really great. They were a little too moist to be a good enchilada filling, although the flavor was perfect. And, of course, they were vegan. The hubby does not like vegan food, only because it has no meat in it (feel free to bang your head against the keyboard now).

The notes about the recipe included this one unimportant sentence that changed my life forever, “Also, the mashed squashed, diluted with water or wine, makes an excellent pasta or pizza sauce!” A kernel of genius in that one.

So, I tried the initial recipe again, since I liked the flavor so much (and the way the roasted garlic made my house smell). When I went to make these a second time, I gave up on the whole mashing the squash thing. Because, seriously, if the great Mother Goddess had intended for us to spend all that time mashing stuff, she wouldn’t have invented blenders. So, I blended away. Just roasted squash, water, and roasted garlic. So simple, and yet so divine. The resulting sauce is smooth, creamy, and so subtle.

Roasted Garlic and Winter Squash Pasta Sauce

1 yellow/orange fleshed winter squash (think Acorn, Delecata, Butternut, Red Curry, Sugar Pumpkin, or whatever you have on hand).

1-2 heads of garlic, depending on the size of your squash and your love of garlic (yes I really mean heads)

Olive oil


Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the dirt off the garlic heads and then brush with olive oil. Place on a large baking sheet. Cut the winter squash in half (use a really good butcher knife and/or poke a few holes in the skin with a paring knife, microwave for 3-4 minutes, and then cut in half). Remove seeds and scrape out stringy parts. Brush inside flesh with olive oil. Place on baking sheet. Bake both the squash and the garlic until the squash is easily pierced with a fork all the way through, and the garlic collapses under light pressure. Remove from oven and let cool. Or, attempt the next step while it’s still flaming hot and swear a lot. Best phrase to use: Damn that’s hot.

Using a large metal serving spoon, scrape out the insides of the winter squash into a blender. You don’t have to be anal about removing all of the skin (but you can be if you want) because a little won’t kill the recipe. Just remove as much as possible, while still keeping your sanity.

Cut the top off the garlic bulb, just until you can see the insides. Holding it top down over the blender, squeeze the bulb until all the guts come out (you know you’re thinking, “Squeez the fun out of it!”). Add just enough water to blend. At this step, I usually add just a tiny amount of water to the blender, put the lid on and remove the little cap on my lid. Then, I turn that baby on to low, and see if I can get things to move. I add water in tiny amounts, until the blending really gets going. Then I put the little cap back on and crank it up to 240 MPH and let it go for 30-60 seconds or until all the chunks are gone and I’m left with a smooth sauce.

Serve over pasta, with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

For those who can indulge, a little freshly shaved Parmesan on top would make this even more divine (p.s. the stuff in the green can is not freshly shaved. Don’t go there).

For those with omnivore palates, ground Italian sausage or shredded chicken both go well with this sauce. Let me know what other combos you think up.

Finally, if you live in Tucson, get thee to the CSA (on University off 4th Ave) and sign up.