Many times it’s hard to see pasta past a red sauce, but many of the best pasta dishes I’ve had get an extraordinary amount of flavor and complexity from subtle ingredients that would be otherwise masked by the robustness of a tomato. Such pasta dishes often have an oil based ‘dressing’, if you will, like spaghetti with white beans and garlic.
Here I’ve taken a late season fall gourd, acorn squash, and roasted it along with spinach and caramelized onions. The roasted squash and sweet onions go really well together, offering a sweet and savory infused oil that lingers in your mouth.
- 1/2 pound dry penne pasta
- 1 medium acorn squash
- 2 onions
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or just plain water)
- 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (either packed in oil or dry)
- 1/2 pound washed baby spinach (or regular spinach, chopped)
*If you are using the tomatoes that are dried (not packed in oil), place them in the wine to allow them to soften.
- First we roast the squash by peeling it, cutting it in half (lengthwise) and scooping the seeds out. Cut into 3/4″ cubes and put on a baking sheet. Slice the onions and add to the squash. Toss it all with the 1/4 cup olive oil, big pinch of salt, paprika, cayenne and black pepper (might be easier to mix everything in a bowl first then place on the baking sheet). Bake at 400*F until the squash is able to be pierced by a fork (about 20 minutes), stirring everything 2-3 times to prevent the onions from burning.
- Cook the penne in salted water per the package directions until al dente. Drain, toss with some oil to prevent sticking and set aside.
- While the squash is baking and penne is cooking, heat some oil in a heavy bottom pan over med/low heat and add the garlic. Cook until just lightly browned and fragrant (1 minute). Turn the heat to high and then deglaze with the wine (remove the tomatoes if you were soaking them). Let the wine reduce for a bit (30 secs) over the high heat, then add the stock, tomatoes and spinach. Add the penne and mix thoroughly. Cook until the spinach wilts.
- Combine the squash with the garlic-spinach mixture. Season with additional salt or spices and add some extra olive oil as needed (for me I added an additional 1/8 cup) to make a nice mixture that isn’t overly oily.
- Serve with some red pepper flakes for garnish.