It’s no secret we love, love, love Mexican food, but I’ve been doing a lot of Mexican cooking lately and sort of feel like I’ve fallen into a rut. This past weekend, we were headed over to some good friends’ for dinner with “whatever you feel like” as guidance when we asked what we could bring, so I set out to make something a little different. I had a small butternut squash on hand, and that was my starting point for a pasta dish. I also had some big, beautiful medjool dates and though they are sweet, I thought they might be good with the squash. Hmmm, the dates reminded me of the delicious lamb, date, and pistachio Turkish pizza recipe we tried over the Christmas holidays, and I figured a bit of pistachio crunch would be a good addition to the experiment that was taking shape in my mind.
Well, it was one of those happy occasions when the hunch in my head turned out to be really good to eat, and I’ll definitely make it again while there are still winter squash available. For this dinner, I knew there were several kinds of meat on the menu already so I kept my contribution vegetarian, but it would also be good with the addition of some prosciutto or even sautéed chicken or a spicy cooked sausage mixed in if you want to turn the recipe into a main dish.
Pasta with Butternut Squash, Dates, and Pistachios
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ leek, cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into thin slices about an inch wide, or use half of a large squash
- 1½ tablespoons flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1½ cups light cream or milk (or a combination, and it would also be really good with a splash of dry white wine)
- 8 ounces dry pasta (farfalle or similar shape is good)
- 8 large dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped (mine were salted in the shell)
In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the leek slices until they are soft and starting to brown. Remove the leeks and set aside; put the squash slices in the pan and toss around to coat, then cover and let them cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. The squash should be tender and starting to brown a little. Add the leeks back into the skillet and sprinkle the mixture evenly with flour. Slowly stir in the cream or milk and wine if you are using it, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce bubbles and thickens up. The squash will break up a little and help to thicken and flavor the sauce.
While the sauce is cooking, boil the pasta in salted water until it is al dente. Drain, reserving a half cup or so of the pasta water. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce, adding a little pasta water if needed to coat the pasta well. Check the seasoning and add more salt and/or pepper if needed. Stir in the dates and most of the pistachios, then sprinkle the last of the pistachios on top and serve.
This recipe takes less than 30 minutes, and we all liked it. I was cooking in a hurry instead of snapping photos, but here’s a shot of the leftovers. Give it a try!